Sunday, March 1, 2009

This is the speech I gave at my son's bris this morning. I waited a while befor eposting anything, because I wasn't sure what to say. I hope this is good enough for now...

Good morning, everyone.

Before we begin, I’d like to give thanks…

…the truth is, I find it quite difficult to express my gratitude, because I know that no matter how many praises I sing, no matter how much shvach I offer to the Master of the World – all these words of thanks are dwarfed by their own inadequacy in the face of the magnitude and sheer volume of blessing that HaShem has seen fit to bestow upon me.

Indeed, throughout my whole life, the Master of the World has poured out his goodness and favor. He has given me parents who have a strong commitment towards their children and their community, and have remained invested and involved with all of their children, even well after they have moved out and are on their own. And in this past year alone, I have received such shefa from Him – first in the meeting, courting and subsequent marrying of my wife, who fits the description of an Ezer K’Negdo in every sense in the word, always inspiring and encouraging me in my own personal growth in addition to our growth together – and now, most recently, with the birth of my son, the Rach HaNimol. I can never give enough thanks to Him, and I know that what I offer now is feeble at best, but I pray that my HaKaras HaTov - the recognition of what I have been given and the actions necessary to thank Him for it - will suffice for now as a step towards the proper expression of gratitude.

The Bris Milah is one of three things referred to in the Torah as a “sign”. The other two – being Shabbos and Tefillin - testify to God’s Omnipotence as the Creator of all things and the Manhig of all things, respectively.
Milah is the testimony that there is a holiness to both the body and soul. Indeed, we are created B’Tzelem Elokim, and the Milah demonstrates that the two are not separate entities but rather two parts in a larger whole. By sanctifying the body through Milah we raise it to a level where it is used solely in the service of HaShem, as it should be.

In a similar vein, the Sefer HaChinnuch writes that the act of Milah – which is the removal of an extra, unnecessary part of the body – is in fact an act of perfecting the body, an act that was specifically left for us to do. The Master of the World wants the Am HaNivchar to be perfect, and he wants us to do it ourselves. HaShem gives us this opportunity, this mitzvah, to teach us a valuable lesson: Just as we can perfect our physical beings, we can also bring about the perfection of our spiritual beings through worthy deeds.

Now that we have been able to perform this awesome mitzvah, thereby helping to perfect the physical needs of the Rach HaNimol, and starting him on his lifelong task of seeking perfection throughout the course of his life, we need to ascertain what exactly the necessary tools are that he will require in the perfecting of his soul.

While I can think of several offhand, I believe that one trait above all is needed - the trait of Truth, of honesty. In Tehillim (15:2), among the first of David HaMelech’s criteria for one who can dwell in HaShem’s tent is “Dover Emes B’Lvavo”, one who speaks truth from his heart.

It is honesty - and the desire and need to maintain the principle of honesty - that can cause a man to walk the path of the righteous. When one is truly honest, he is forced to deal with others in an ethical, courteous manner. His honesty does not allow him to make compromises on anything that would cause a deviation from what he has set out to do, in any situation. His intellectual honesty will allow him to open his heart to his mentor’s teachings and to the mussar of his predecessors, and will help to guide him in his search for growth.

The Rach HaNimol’s namesake, Reb Yonah ben Shlomo Yosef Mantel, was such a man, I’m told. His honesty and commitment toward serving the Master of the World was known by all. He never compromised on his avodah, and he dealt with everyone he came in contact with with that same honesty. I can say that I personally see the effect he has had in transmitting his mesorah, through his son, my father in law. I have no doubt as to where the good traits my father in law carries comes from, and he in turn has passed it down to his own children.

When we name a child, we’re not just giving them a label. There’s a certain amount of nevuah involved, one that allows us to give the child a name that is related to his or her essence. In addition, when we name a child after someone, we establish a bond between the two of them. The deceased relative is honored by the naming, and also benefits from whatever good accomplishments the newly named child will do in the future.
The child gains from the naming, as it is said that the deceased’s traits are passed on to him and he develops similar characteristics as the deceased. This helps to intensify the transmittal of the mesorah further.

It is my hope and blessing that my son, Yonah will indeed take this trait of Truth and utilize it to the fullest extent, keeping our mesorah of Torah Judaism alive. May he be a source of nachas to all of us, and may he grow to become an outstanding member of the Jewish nation.