Some Things Can’t Wait

September 18, 2017 at 1:24 AM , , ,

“…And g-d spoke to Moshe on that very day, saying. ascend this mount Avarim [to] mount Nevo…” –  (Devarim 32:48-49)

וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל משֶׁה בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה לֵאמֹר: עֲלֵה אֶל הַר הָעֲבָרִים הַזֶּה הַר נְבו.ֹ.. – דברים לב, מח-מט

Rashi notes that in three places the Torah employs the phrase, בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, which literally means, “at the strength of this day”: regarding Noach entering the Ark, regarding the exodus from Egypt, and regarding Moshe’s ascent of Mount Nevo where he would pass away. Rashi explains that there were people who intended to stop these events from materializing. In all three instances, G-d said, “It will take place at midday. Let anyone who has the power to prevent it from happening come and do so.” Hence, the Torah’s use of the expression,בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, meaning, in broad daylight, at midday.

Rashi omits, however, a fourth use of this expression in the Torah: regarding Avraham’s circumcision. There, too, the Torah states (Beraishis 17:23) that it took place, בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, and for a similar reason. As Rashi there explains, this phrase highlights that Avraham circumcised himself in the daytime and not at night, “so that his enemies and his contemporaries would not say, ‘had we seen him, we would not have allowed him to circumcise and fulfill G-d’s command.’”

Some Things Can’t Wait

Rashi omits this reference because unlike the other instances, in which this expression teaches us that they took place at midday, in Avraham’s case this could not be so. For the Torah’s emphasis that a particular event took place “at midday” indicates that it could have occurred earlier or later, but instead it was timed for midday. Avraham’s circumcision, however, could only have taken place at the exact time that it did—neither earlier nor later. For Avraham circumcised himself at G-d’s command, and without a doubt he did so at the absolute earliest opportunity! If it were possible to perform the circumcision earlier, he would not have waited until midday—for any reason whatsoever!

Avraham’s circumcision was, in fact, בְּעֶצֶם הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה; “in the daytime and not at night,” despite the possibility that others might attempt to stop him. But unlike the other instances in which this phrase is used, Avraham could not have waited for midday to circumcise himself. For when fulfilling a mitzvah, sooner is always better than later.


—Sichos Kodesh 5741, vol. 1, pp. 36-39

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