Parshas Lech Lecha.
The laws of Bris Milah – circumcision.
1. Every father is obligated to circumcise his son or to find a Mohel who will do this. If the father did not fulfill the obligation or the father of the child is absent or unknown, then the community has to organize the circumcision. Even if the father is not Jewish, if the mother is a Jew, her son needs to be circumcised. If the child was not circumcised, then he has an obligation to arrange his circumcision once he grows up.
2. On the day of circumcision, the child is placed on the knees of a Sandak, who holds him during the circumcision. The father should try to find righteous Mohel and Sandak for his son. If the father promised to give somebody the honor of Sandak or Mohel, he can not go back.
3. The circumcision is performed on the eight day after birth even if it falls on Shabbos, however, if the baby was delivered though Cesarean, he is not circumcised on Shabbos. (Interestingly, the scientists recently discovered that the clotting of the blood is the greatest on the eight day after birth.) It is strictly forbidden to delay the circumcision for any reason, like waiting for relatives to arrive from another country, choosing a weekend for convenience etc.
4. If a child is sick or his skin is too yellow or too red after birth, it is forbidden to circumcise him. Circumcision can be performed once he gets better. However, the decision of whether to delay the circumcision is made by the doctors in conjunction with competent Rabbis, not by the parents.
5. According to Torah law the time between the sundown and the coming out of stars is considered to partially belong to the previous day and in part to the next day. For this reason, for example, we keep the Shabbos not for 24 hours but longer – the Shabbos starts with sundown on Friday and ends when three average stars can be seen on the sky the next night. For this reason, if a child is born after sundown but before the stars, we count the days starting the following day to make sure the day of circumcision is at least eight days after birth. If a child is born between sundown and stars on Friday night, he is circumcised on Sunday, since we can only circumcise on Shabbos the child that was born exactly eight days before, on the previous Shabbos.
6. It is a mitzvah to make a festive meal on the day of circumcision. Those who can afford should serve meat on it.
The laws of Tefillin – the black boxes that are put on by Jewish men every weekday morning.
1. The mitzvah of putting on Tefillin is very great for the entire Torah is compared to Tefillin. Thousands of laws are kept in order to make kosher Tefillin and the smallest error may invalidate them. This is why we should only buy Tefillin from a God-fearing Jew, this is one of the most important purchases in our lives. It is better to pay more, only that the Tefillin will for sure be kosher. Even after buying Tefillin we need to constantly make sure it is kept in good condition, it should not be left on the sun or under rain so that it will not get damaged. We have to watch that the corners will not become round nor that the black paint come off. If we notice that the Tefillin is starting to deteriorate, we should show it to a knowledgeable Rabbi.
2. The time for putting on Tefillin is no earlier than 50 minutes before sunrise. Those that have to leave for work before this time should speak to a Rabbi regarding when they should put on Tefillin.
3. The exact places to put on the arm and head Tefillin are hard to describe on paper – the best advice is to ask a knowledgeable person to show how Tefillin is put on. However we will still try to describe some general rules. The place for the arm Tefillin is on the muscle of the left arm but a lefty puts it on the right arm. The place for the head Tefillin is above the forehead. The entire Tefillin including its bottom part has to be on the placed where hair grows. A bold person places his Tefillin on the place where the hair used to grow. A common mistake is to place the Tefillin too low. Many people have long hair on their forehead, they have to be especially careful to put Tefillin above it, not on it. Sometimes, to make sure the Tefillin is on the right place, it is necessary to tighten the knot of the straps. One should also watch that the Tefillin is exactly in the middle of a head above the space between the eyes – not at the right or at the left.
4. Before putting on the Tefillin we pronounce the following blessing: “BORUCH АТO ADONOY ELOHEYNU MELECH HOOLOM ASHER KIDSHONU BEMITZVOSOV VETZIVONU LEHANIACH TEFILLIN” – “Blessed are You, God our Lord, the King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His precepts and commanded us to put on Tefillin”. After this one should not talk until he puts on the head Tefillin. Many Ashkenazi Jews pronounce an additional blessing on the head Tefillin.
5. When putting both Tefillin on, one has to be careful that there is no separation between the Tefillin and the body.
6. During putting on Tefillin one has remember about
the four Parshios that are in it. They describe the exodus from
7. It is most important to have Tefillin on during the morning prayers especially when saying Shema and Shemone Esre. If Tefillin was not put on in the morning, it should still be put later on during the day until sundown. We do not put on Tefillin on Shabbos and Yom Tov.