This week we read two portions. In the first we read about one of the most important Mitzvot in Jewish life – the Brit Milah. We are told that on the eighth day after the child’s birth he is to be circumcised. Why are eight days necessary? The Midrash Rabbah (27:10) gives the reason so that the child should first experience a Shabbat, for in every eight days there must be a Shabbat. It is important that the child first live through a Shabbat before undergoing the Mitzva of Brit Milah.
What is the significance of this requirement? As we all know the Shabbat testifies to Jews that Hashem created the world. After six days of creation he rested on Shabbat. We too must rest on that day to indicate that we believe that the world did not just come about by itself or that the world always existed as some believed. We maintain that Hashem created the world and we rest on Shabbat to demonstrate this belief.
When a child is brought into the Jewish fold through the Brit, we symbolically show him through the Shabbat what our belief is. It is true that at that age the child has no concept of what we are trying to show. It really is a lesson for his parents and when he gets older and learns about the Brit and its laws he too will then get the message. Shabbat is one of the great Mitzvot of the Jews. Many Jews gave up their lives when they were being forced to desecrate the Shabbat. It is a fundamental principle in Judaism which underlies all other Mitzvot. We first must believe that Hashem created the world and then we know that we must worship Him and follow His commandments.