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                       PUBLISHER'S FOREWORD

The sichah which follows emphasizes a unique aspect of

On one hand, circumcision does not bring about any new
development. Every Jew shares an inherent connection with G-d
that exists even before the mitzvah of circumcision is performed.

On the other hand, it is the performance of the mitzvah which
enables this inner connection to be revealed.

This same motif applies with regard to other concepts.

For example, with regard to Mashiach's coming. On one hand,
with regard to the verse "And the spirit of G-d hovered
over the waters" [Bereishis 1:2] which describes the very
beginning of creation, our Sages state: "This refers to the
spirit of Mashiach." [Bereishis Rabbah 2:4]

Nevertheless, although this is the intent of creation, man's
service is necessary to bring this intent into fruition.

May the study of the Rebbe's teachings inspire us to shoulder our
share of the responsibility in revealing this Divine intent. And
may our efforts draw down overtly apparent Divine good and
blessing, including the ultimate blessing, the coming of the
Redemption, and the fulfillment of the prophecy, [Yeshyahu 26:19]
"And those who repose in the dust will arise and sing."

                                                Sichos In English
                                                26 Adar II 5755


                 How Important is the Time Frame?

The time for the fulfillment of the mitzvah of circumcision is
the eighth day after the child was born, as it is written in our
Torah reading: [1] "On the eighth day, you shall circumcise the
flesh of his foreskin."

If the child is not circumcised on the eighth day, although this
act fulfills the mitzvah of circumcision, and a blessing is
recited, [2] the mitzvah lacks the distinction of a mitzvah
bizmano, a mitzvah performed at the appropriate time.

When the mitzvah is performed at the appropriate time, it has
a unique quality, as reflected in the fact that when circumcision
is performed at the appropriate time it (and all the activities
necessary to perform it) supersede the prohibitions against labor
on Shabbos, as derived by our Sages [3] from the above verse.

When circumcision is not performed at the appropriate time,
by contrast, it does not supersede the Shabbos laws.

This appears to lead to the conclusion [4] that when a child is
circumcised after eight days - even when it was impossible to
circumcise him earlier, e.g., the child was sick - the
circumcision is not considered to have been performed "at the
appropriate time."

Moreover, it would appear that the mitzvah of circumcision
performed after the eighth day affects only the coming days;
it has no retroactive effect on the preceding days when the child
was uncircumcised. Seemingly, there is nothing that can be done
to amend the past. The person is not considered to have
transgressed G-d's commandment. On the contrary, he is forbidden
to circumcise the child while ill, for pikuach nefesh, a threat
to life supersedes all of the Torah's [commands]. [5]
Nevertheless, the actual performance of the mitzvah is lacking.

As the Rambam explains, we are permitted to circumcise a child
only when he is healthy, because: "A threat to life takes
precedence over everything. It is possible to circumcise [the
child] afterwards, but it is impossible to ever bring a Jewish
soul back [to life]." [6]

Nevertheless, upon a deeper analysis, the above conclusion is

This concept is reflected in a careful examination of the wording
used by the Rambam, who alludes to two reasons for the delay of
the mitzvah:

     a) "a threat to life takes precedence over everything," and
     b) "it is possible to circumcise [the child] afterwards...,"
        i.e., the mitzvah is not nullified.

The first reason given by the Rambam states the importance of
pikuach nefesh. Even if there is no possibility of performing
the mitzvah afterwards, the threat to Jewish life takes

By adding the second reason, he implies that the mitzvah of
circumcision which one fulfills afterwards also amends for the
previous days and even enables one to attain the advantage of
circumcision at the appropriate time.

If the mitzvah would affect only the coming days, the rationale
"it is possible to circumcise [the child] afterwards..." would
not be sufficient in its own right, for the initial days would
not have been corrected, and the advantage of fulfilling the
mitzvah at the appropriate time would be lacking.

This is somewhat difficult to comprehend: How can a mitzvah have
a retroactive effect?

There are several instances where the Torah states that an
activity will have an effect on a previous time, but in these
instances, the activity is not intended to affect a new status,
but instead to clarify the nature of the previous situation;
alternatively to cause an act that was fulfilled conditionally
to become binding. [7]

Because the activity carried out afterwards merely clarifies the
previous situation, it is understandable that the activity can
have a retroactive effect.

When, however, an activity must bring about a new status,
seemingly, it can have an effect only on the future, not on
the past. How then can the act of circumcision have an effect
on the previous days?

Also, the order in the Rambam's wording raises somewhat of
a question:

After stating "It is possible to circumcise [the child]
afterwards," the Rambam adds: "but it is impossible to ever
bring a Jewish soul back [to life]."

The latter phrase seems to relate more to the first reason stated
by the Rambam, the preeminence of pikuach nefesh.

For, once it is explained that through circumcision at a later
date, one can retroactively rectify the lack in the previous
days, it is seemingly unnecessary to state: "It is impossible
to ever bring a Jewish soul back [to life]."


The above questions can be clarified based on a passage in
Likkutei Torah [8] which states that circumcision draws down
a level of Divine light which the Jews cannot draw down through
their Divine service.

It transcends the levels that can be reached by the efforts of
mortals, and instead is drawn down on G-d's initiative.

Nevertheless, the act of circumcision is necessary, because as
long as the foreskin is present, the light will not be drawn
down. It is only when the foreskin is removed that the light will
reveal itself.

Similar concepts apply with regard to the concept that the entry
of the soul of holiness into the body takes place through the
mitzvah of circumcision. [9] This refers to a level of soul which
transcends our powers of understanding. [10]

There is no way we can tap this level of soul through our own
efforts and Divine service. Instead, every Jew shares an
inherent, essential bond to this level. Nevertheless, it is
through circumcision that this inherent connection is revealed.

On this basis, we can understand how circumcision effects the
past. For it, like the situations mentioned previously is not
bringing about a new development. It is revealing a factor which
existed previously. [11]

To cite another example: Teshuvah which is motivated by love has
a retroactive effect, transforming one's sins into merits. [12]

For teshuvah does not bring about a new situation. [13] Even at
the time a person commits a sin, his soul remains faithful to
G-d, [14] but its connection with Him is hidden. Since teshuvah
brings this inner bond to the surface, it has a retroactive
effect, elevating one's previous conduct.

Similarly, with regard to circumcision, if one does not perform
the circumcision afterwards, the Jew's inherent connection to G-d
remains hidden.

This runs contrary to the intent for the creation as a whole,
and the intent of the descent of that particular soul. For the
purpose of the creation is that a Jew should - by virtue of his
own Divine service - reveal the G-dly nature of his soul. [15]

When, however, a Jew who was not circumcised at the appropriate
time circumcises himself afterwards, he reveals this inherent,
[timeless] connection. Therefore, this also has a retroactive
effect on the previous days. [16]

                          G-d's Only Son

On this basis, we can understand why after mentioning the two
reasons spoken of previously, the Rambam adds: "It is impossible
to ever bring a Jewish soul back [to life]."

In addition to the obvious meaning of this phrase, it also
explains why when a child is circumcised after the appropriate
time, the circumcision has a retroactive effect.

The Jews' connection with G-d transcends any and every factor.
It continues at all times, regardless of the nature of the Jews'
conduct, as it is said: [17] "Regardless, they are My children;
to exchange them for another nation (heaven forbid) is

With the words "It is impossible to ever bring a Jewish soul
back," the Rambam is alluding to the fact that G-d can never
retract His covenant with the Jewish people.

Moreover, this covenant does not merely involve the people
as a whole; it effects every individual Jew. G-d has bound
Himself with every individual Jew with a bond that cannot be
retracted, for G-d loves every Jew with essential love.

As the Baal Shem Tov would say: [18] "Every Jew is cherished by
G-d like an only child born to his parents in their old age;
indeed, he is even dearer to Him."

The intent of the creation is: "for the sake of the Jews who are
called 'first.'" [19]

This applies not only with regard to the Jewish people as a
whole, but with regard to every individual Jew. [20]

The intent of the creation as a whole depends on every individual
Jew, and therefore "everyone is required to say: 'The world was
created for me.'" [21]

And for that same reason, whoever saves one Jewish soul is
considered as if he saved the entire world. [21]  For when
a lack is experienced by one Jew, the entire world is effected.

Since "It is impossible to ever bring a Jewish soul back," i.e.,
the bond between G-d and every Jew is always completely intact
with the fullness of its power. All that is necessary is that it
be revealed. For this reason, "It is possible to circumcise [the
child] afterwards," and there will be a retroactive effect,
because circumcision is revealing the inherent connection to
G-dliness which exists at all times, even before the


As mentioned previously, [22] the mitzvah of circumcision alludes
to general concepts involving our Divine service. Similarly, the
concepts described above are reflected within our personal

Every Jew must realize the immediate demands of his Divine
service. Work must be accomplished. A person cannot lie down
and rest, confident that he shares a latent connection with G-d.

He may not remain content with the promise that ultimately "No
one will ever be estranged from Him," [23] and that his conduct
in the immediate present is of no significance. For this inner
connection must be brought into revelation, and this can be
accomplished only through work. [24]

This work involves the acts of milah, cutting the thick foreskin,
and priyah, ripping open the thin membrane, which on a spiritual
plane refers to our service of subduing our material desires.[25]

Afterwards, one must perform metzitzah, sucking out the blood,
removing the excitement from material things from one's body
as a whole.

On the other hand, a person must appreciate that his efforts
to "circumcise the foreskin of [his] heart" [26] have far greater
effects than could possibly be brought about through his own

These endeavors will lead to a revelation from above and the
fulfillment of the promise: [27] "And G-d your L-rd will
circumcise your heart," which in a complete sense will be
manifest at the time of the complete and ultimate Redemption
to be led by Mashiach; may it take place in the near future.


1.      Vayikra 12:3.
2.      See the sichah to Parshas Lech Lecha in this series which
        explains that in addition to the positive dimension of
        the mitzvah of circumcision, there is also another
        dimension. It prevents one from being uncircumcised.

        We cannot, however, say that the blessing is recited
        because of this factor, because a blessing is not recited
        over an activity performed to prevent the violation of
        a prohibition.

        For example, there are authorities (see Issur ViHeter,
        Shaar 68, sec. 104) who explain that a blessing is not
        recited before nikkur, the removal of forbidden fats and
        blood vessels from meat, because the object of the
        activity is to prevent the violation of these

        Accordingly, the fact that a blessing is recited in this
        instance indicates that the positive dimension of the
        mitzvah of circumcision is indeed fulfilled even when the
        circumcision takes place after the eighth day.

3.      Shabbos 132a.
4.      See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, the
        conclusion of Chapter 19 of Shabbos and the Jerusalem
        Talmud, Rosh HaShanah 1:1.
5.      Yoma 82a.
6.      Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Milah 1:18.

        Tosafos (Shabbos 131a) states that "Even if the time
        for circumcision passes, the mitzvah is not nullified.
        For the very same circumcision which he is obligated to
        perform on the eighth day is performed on the ninth."
        This reflects the view that all the advantages of
        performing circumcision at the appropriate time are
        attained even when the mitzvah was performed at a later
        date. (Seemingly, this would apply even when one
        willfully delayed observance of the mitzvah.  See,
        however, footnote 11).

        Nevertheless, this concept still requires consideration,
        for Tosafos concludes "If he had circumcised [the child]
        on the eighth day, he would not circumcise him on the
        ninth day."

        Seemingly, this is self-evident. It is possible to say
        that Tosafos' intent is that one does attain the
        advantage of circumcising the child at the appropriate
        time, but one does not retroactively amend the lack of
        the previous days.

        See the analysis of this concept in the letter of the
        Rogatchover (printed in the miluim to the S'dei Chemed,
        Kuntres HaMetzitzah, sec. 6, p. 2735 and Tzofnas Paneach,
        Hilchos Milah, the conclusion of ch. 1).

7.      E.g., conditional agreements, alternatively, a situation
        similar to that described by Chullin 72b: "Anything which
        will surely be cut off, is considered as if it is cut off
        already." See also Shulchan Aruch, Even HaEzer 124:1,
        S'dei Chemed, Klallim 20, 142.

8.      Vayikra 21a; see also Derech Mitzvosecha 9b.

9.      Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Mahadora Basra 4:2. See the sichos
        to the parshiyos Lech Lecha and Yud-Tes Kislev in this
        series where the concept is explained.

10.     See the maamar entitled Basi LeGani, 5713.

11.     To refer to the expression cited in note 7: "Anything
        which will surely be cut off, is considered as if it is
        cut off already." For this reason, circumcision has a
        retroactive effect.

        It must be clarified if this also applies when one
        neglected to circumcise the baby at the appropriate time,
        for it is unclear whether the foreskin would be
        considered "surely [to] be cut off" in such a situation.

12.     See Yoma 86a and Rashi's commentary.

13.     Indeed, this concept is implied by the very word teshuvah
        which means "return," coming back to one's essence, as
        explained in Likkutei Torah (Parshas Haazinu, see also
        Likkutei Sichos, Vol. I, p. 409).

        On this basis, a distinction can be made between the
        repentance of non-Jews (for example, the inhabitants of
        Ninveh) and the teshuvah of Jews. With regard to non-
        Jews, the concept of returning to an essential bond with
        G-d does not apply in a complete sense. Therefore, in
        contrast to the teshuvah of the Jewish people, their
        repentance effects only the future.

        See also the commentary of the Tzemach Tzedek to the
        verse (Eichah 1:8): "Israel has surely sinned." He
        writes: "It is with regard to Israel alone that the
        concepts of sin and teshuvah are relevant." See also the
        Jerusalem Talmud, Nazir 9:1; Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 21
        (54b); Minchas Chinuch, the conclusion of Mitzvah 364.

14.     Tanya, ch. 24.

15.     See the Eitz Chayim which states that the ultimate
        purpose of creation is that G-d's potentials will be
        revealed and be recognized [by mankind].

16.     To cite another parallel. Although a bill of divorce must
        be given willingly, if a Jew is compelled to divorce his
        wife by a Jewish court, the divorce is considered to have
        been given willingly because the true desire of every Jew
        is to perform G-d's will. And if a gentile forces him to
        divorce his wife when he is not required to, the divorce
        is void (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Gerushin 2:20).

        Nevertheless, even when he is compelled to divorce by the
        Jewish court, he must make a statement that he wants to
        divorce his wife, for his true desire must be given
        actual expression.

17.     Kiddushin 36a (see Rashba, Responsum 194); Pesichtah, Rus
        Rabbah, sec. 3; Pesachim 87a.

18.     Keser Shem Tov, Addenda, sec. 133.
19.     Osios D'Rabbi Akiva, Os Beis; Seder Rabbah D'Breishis,
        sec. 4; Vayikra Rabbah 36:4; Midrash Tanchuma, Bereishis
        3; Rashi and Ramban, commentary to Bereishis 1:1.

20.     Therefore when the Torah was given - which is the purpose
        of the world - the entire Jewish people had to be
        present, 600,000 people (Mechilta, Shmos 19:11, Yalkut
        Shimoni, sec. 280).

21.     Sanhedrin 4:5.
22.     See the sichah of Parshas Lech Lecha in this series.
23.     Shulchan Aruch HaRav, Hilchos Talmud Torah 4:3; Tanya,
        ch. 3. The wording is based on a Hebrew expression
        originally found in II Shmuel 14:14.

24.     See the sichah of Parshas Lech Lecha in this series which
        states that this is the lesson implied by the fact that
        the mitzvah includes the actual deed of circumcision.

25.     Rambam, Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. III, chs. 35 and 39;
        see also the sichah of Parshas Lech Lecha in this series
        where this concept is discussed.

26.     Devarim 10:16.

27.     Ibid. 30:6. See the maamar entitled B'Etzem HaYom HaZeh
        in Torah Or, and in Toras Chayim, Parshas Lech Lecha.

              End of Text - Likutei Sichos - Tazria


                Circumcision - Always a Timely Act
                    The Purpose of Punishment

The Torah portion Tazria opens by saying: "When a woman conceives
and gives birth to a boy.... On the eighth day, [the child]...
shall be circumcised."

This is so only if the infant is healthy; if the child
is not completely well, milah (the ritual of circumcision)
is delayed until he is fully recovered.

The Rambam explains why only a healthy child is circumcised:
"A threat to life sets everything else aside; it is possible to
circumcise later on, but it is impossible to return a Jewish soul
[to its body after its passing]."

The Rambam's exposition - "it is possible..." - indicates that he
is providing two reasons:

"The threat to life sets everything else aside" means that even
if the mitzvah of circumcision can never be performed because of
"a threat to life," it is to be forever forfeited, since "a
threat to life sets everything else aside."

The second reason - "it is possible to circumcise later on" -
suggests that when milah is delayed because of ill-health,
nothing is really lost.

We thus understand that performing the mitzvah of milah at
a later date affects the previous days as well, so much so
that, retrospectively, it is equal to circumcision on the
eighth day.

How can an action so affect the past?

We must also understand the following: At the conclusion of the
second reason of "it is possible to circumcise later on" the
Rambam adds: "but it is impossible to ever return a Jewish soul."

Seemingly, these words are more closely related to the first
reason of "A threat to life sets everything else aside"?

Chassidus explains that milah allows the drawing down of
a Divine illumination far greater than man's service alone
could accomplish; the illumination reflects an "arousal from

So long as a person is uncircumcised, his state acts as a barrier
to this light. Milah removes this barrier.

The same is true regarding the "entry of the holy soul"
accomplished through circumcision: The ritual draws down a level
of soul that transcends intellect. This, too, cannot be realized
through man's service alone - it forms an essential part of every
male Jew, and is merely revealed through milah.

Since circumcision merely exposes a pre-existing spiritual state,
it is able to affect the past as well. If milah is never
performed, then the spiritual state remains concealed. But once
milah is performed and the pre-existing state is revealed, it
influences the past as well.  Accordingly, the Rambam states:
"but it is impossible to ever return a Jewish soul" after both
reasons, in order to explain how milah performed "later on" is
considered as if it were done on time.

A Jew's connection with G-d transcends all bounds, and is always

"It is impossible to ever return a Jewish soul" thus means that
the bond with G-d can never be "returned," i.e., severed.
This being so, all that is required is for this bond to be

This is accomplished by milah even "later on" - even then, its
effect is the same as that of milah performed in its proper time.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. III pp. 979-983.

(Revised 6 January 2006)

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