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Redemption: Moshe hand, is a mitzvah of the 8th day,

the first day of man’s work to

and Bris Milah complete Hashem’s work in
briyas haolam. If every person is
Isaiah Cox the equal of the entire world,
Joseph Cox1 then the bris is man’s first act to
match Hashem, to, in the words
The Gemara in Shabbos (133b) of Abba Shaul, change “ze keli
makes a direct link between the v’anveyhu” to “ze keli ve ani ve
expression in Az Yashir (“This is hu” – this is my G-d, and I will be
my G-d and I will beautify him”) like him; I will seek to emulate
and bris milah. Chazal hold that Hashem in all that I do. And the
a mohel, when doing a bris on first step is milah, to improve
Shabbos, must be careful to do upon the raw human body by
a beautiful job, to leave no extra dedicating its reproductive
strips of skin hanging off or organ to the service of Hashem.
anything unsightly for even a Such an act trumps Shabbos.
short time. Indeed, even if the
mitzvah has been done, and the Hashem’s choice of phrase, “the
brachos said, etc. – and G-d of my father,” appears in
someone notices that the job sefer Shemos only 3 places –
was not aesthetic, then some and it is an odd phrase to begin
hold that the mohel is obligated with, since it does not name any
to tidy up even though it is a other forebears, as Yaakov had
separate act, and it is done on done. Hashem never uses the
Shabbos Kodesh. In this case, phrase with anyone else. In our
beautifying a mitzvah trumps tefillah we refer to the G-d of our
Shabbos itself. That same pasuk fathers, and not the G-d of our
continues with “elokei avi, father. The formulation seems to
va'arom'menhu” – an explicit be unique to Moshe – why?
link between bris milah, What was between Moshe and
Shabbos, beautifying a mitzvah, his father?
and a promise by Moshe that he
will exalt the G-d of his father. We know from the Midrash (Ex.
Rabb III:1) that Hashem used
The linkage is, as usual, not Moshe’s father’s voice to
coincidental. introduce himself – and the
Midrash suggests that Moshe
Shabbos is a direct mitzvah of was happy to hear that his
Hashem, symbolizing the father was mentioned by
completion of Hashem’s Hashem; it meant that Moshe’s
creation. Bris, on the other father was important. But what
kind of grown son worries about
 (With input from Bruce Greene, and  whether his father is important?
thanks to Arnold Cohen for teaching me  The answer of course, is one
the Gemara in Shabbos) who cannot be sure. Moshe was
not raised in his father’s house, given: “The G-d of my father
and did not have, by any stretch came to my aid.”
of the imagination, a normal
childhood or relationship with These are all connected, and
his biological family. they are connected through the
entire story of Moshe’s second
If one sees Moshe as someone son, and his bris.
who was the ultimate Baal
Teshuvah, identifying with his In the middle of this is the
father was his way of growing incident with Eliezer. Gershom,
roots to his own people. Moshe the older brother, was born
was not raised in the midst of before the burning bush. Eliezer,
Jewish history; it is Hashem who it seems, was born at almost
explains to Moshe that talking exactly the same time as the
about Avraham, Isaac, and Jacob burning bush. We know this
will resonate with the people, because his bris was supposed
that these are the names and to happen within 3 days of
figures that hearken back to a traveling to Mitzrayim, and
wonderful time of connection Moshe puts off the bris for
with Hashem. For Moshe, the safety reasons.
link is not really a national
affinity – but he is aware of his When Moshe and Zipporah and
father. This connection their sons get to an inn near
mattered, which is why Hashem, Egypt, an angel comes, furious
in attracting Moshe to his cause, that the bris has not yet
invokes Moshe’s father, and he occurred. At that point, Rashi
does so by his title and not his tells us, they were close enough
name. The name of Moshe’s to Egypt that the danger to life
father was not as important as from traveling would have been
his relation, so he is identified mitigated, and Moshe should
not by name but by reference to have acted more rapidly to fulfill
his son. the mitzvah.

So “the G-d of my father” is So Zipporah does the bris, with

Moshe’s special name for a stone. And then they meet
Hashem. Hashem invokes it the Aharon. Rashi tells us that
first time: at the burning bush, Aharon asks Moshe why he is
G-d identifies himself to Moshe, bringing a wife and children into
“I am the G-d of your father.” Egypt when it is going to be
But the following times it is difficult enough to get everyone
Moshe that uses the phrase: in else out! Moshe promptly turns
Az Yashir, when Moshe says his family around and sends
“this is the G-d of my father and them back to his father-in-law.
I will exalt him.” And the third is Note that there is no mention
in Parshas Yisro, when the that Moshe has given his second
explanation for Eliezer’s name is son a name. And note that the
bris was not done beautifully; making a promise to G-d to
Zipporah (who, as the mother, correct his oversights in the
did not have the direct past, to beautify his relationship
obligation in the first place) was with G-d, and to make amends
in a hurry, used a stone, and her for the events surrounding
words to Moshe clearly show Eliezer’s bris.
that all in all, she was not happy.
We can easily guess why; Eliezer apparently is not named
without consulting with her (as at the bris, and there was no
Yaakov had done with his wives) time to name him afterward,
Moshe had quickly taken her out since Aharon meets them and
of her father’s house when she the family is sent packing back
was either very pregnant or had to Yisro. I posit that it is only
just had a newborn; so when it when Yisro brings the family
came, Aharon’s suggestion that back to Moshe that Moshe
Zipporah go back to her father names his second son Eliezer
was not unwelcome advice to “for the G-d of my father came
either Moshe or Zipporah. to my aid.” Moshe takes this
opportunity to name his son, to
Interestingly, Moshe did not do it in direct praise of Hashem
even perform the bris himself – for saving him from Pharoah’s
which may be a parallel to sword. Moshe uses the special
Moshe and his father; Moshe phrase “G-d of my father” to
was born without a foreskin, so acknowledge that he is fulfilling
even if Amram performed the the promise Moshe made at the
bloodletting, Moshe did not get singing of Az Yashir, that Moshe
a “normal” bris. And now the will exalt Hashem (in this case,
second son (Eliezer) of the by naming his son “G-d is my
second son (Moshe) had missed helper”).
the opportunity to establish this
fundamental link in Judaism And we see why Shabbos is such
between a father and his son. an important link within the
whole story. When Hashem tells
Jump forward to the Exodus. Moshe to assume a leadership
Moshe leads the people in Az role, change history for all time,
Yashir, and he says: “This is my and liberate the Jewish people,
G-d and I will glorify him, the G- the state of his family is, not
d of my father, and I will exalt surprisingly, not at the top of his
him.” [emphasis added] Moshe “to-do” list. Surely bris milah
is not using the common can wait a little. But we learn
expression, through which all of here that this is not the
Israel refer to G-d as the G-d of halachah. The most important
our fathers, Avraham, Isaac, and commandments from Hashem
Jacob. This is a reference to (like Shabbos, and perhaps even
Moshe’s father, and to the leading the Jews from Egypt)
burning bush itself. Moshe is pale before the mitzvah of bris
milah. Moshe understands this –
afterward. And he makes up for
it by dedicating his son to
Hashem: “G-d is my helper”.
And in so doing, I think Moshe
also is healing the connection
across the generations: from
Moshe’s father to Moshe, to