Prologue: Ignorance might not be bliss but clearly simplicity is. American society has tried as hard as it can to do what it can to save labor. At the same time, we always do our best to "keep it simple." People know that the more complex something appears, the less appealing it appears to the person meeting it and attempting to understand it. Thus, it seems interesting that God seems to desire the same from Avraham Aveinu. He opens up the command for the Bris Mila with a request. HisHaleich Lifanai V'He'Yeh Tamim -- Walk in front of me with a sense of simple wholeness. Why introduce Mila with that introduction? Why does God desire such a simple relationship with Avraham?
HaGaon HaRav Moshe Feinstein ztl. (Darash Moshe II) explained that an essential element of the Jew's relationship with God is contained within these words. Before giving Avraham the Mitzva of Mila, containing with it the concept of Bris Kodesh, the sacred bond of Jew and God, Hashem wanted the terms clarified. By undertaking a Bris, each and every Jew was going to be wearing the sign of agreement to be Ovdai Hashem. Hashem did not want complex reasons for why Jews agreed to participate in this pact. He wanted the Jew to do it because he commanded the Jew to do it. No ifs, ands, or Buts. And bottom line, our relationship with Hashem, should be the one of Ammo V'Hu Elokeinu.
The Bris, as the first Mitzva commanded to the first Jew for generations as well as the one that best sealed the agreement, begins with God's prelude to the relationship, keep it simple. You are keeping my word because you believe in me.
What happens to those who don't keep the Bris? Are they not among Am Hashem? This week's Chaburah examines that question. It is entitled:
What makes him a Jew?
There is a well documented discussion among the members of the Chevra Kaddisha in the town of Brisk who did not want to perform a funeral for a baby who had passed away without a Bris. The child's parents refused to allow one to be done posthumously (as prescribed by the Shulchan Aruch). The Chevra Kaddisha felt that without the Bris, the child was considered not Jewish (and unable to be buried in a Jewish cemetery) because, after all, a Bris is what makes the child Jewish. Rav Chaim Brisker apparently disagreed with this notion of his Chevra Kaddisha. Rav Chaim noted that any child born from a Jewish mother is, by definition, Jewish. The Bris Mila completes the functional aspect of his Yahadus. (It seems that the Bris might be that which completes the activation of his Jewish status, allowing him to partake of certain Mitzvos, See Rav Yosef Engel, Asvun Dioraisa Klal 11 for a more complete picture).
However there are times when a child is not given a Bris. This can be because of parental fear of the process or even Halachically legitimate situations where the child's siblings had passed away because of the Mila. In those situations, is the child's status as a Jew affected? Can he have an Aliya? Can he be counted as a member of a Minyan?
In dealing with the question of who, the question of why must be asked. Why did the child not receive Mila? If the reason for the child's lack of a Mila is based upon parental rage whereby the parent did not wish to give the child a Mila out of anger toward the religion, then the child should not receive an Aliya. The Debecener Rav ( Shut Be'er Moshe V:90) goes so far as to disallow the parents from receiving any Aliyos or being counted for a Minyan. He maintains that a parent who challenges God by denying his child a basic Bris is clearly a Mumar L'Hachiis and should not be counted as a member of a Minyan.
As far as the child is concerned, once the child is a Bar mitzva, he is responsible to make the decision for himself to have the Bris. Failure to do so, makes him a Mumar as well and thus unable to have the Aliya in Shul (Shut MaHarShag II:203, Shut Tzitz Eliezer XI:9). Others add that this would effect his status for weddings and and burial as well (Shut Milamed L'Hoil Y.D. 79 & 115). Yet this case speaks to the situation of a person who does not receive a Bris out of anger with God. (See Chazon Ish Yoreh Deah Siman 2:7 about sinners today). What about people who forgo a Bris today out of fear of the process?
The Talmud (Hullin 5a) maintains that a Mumar for a Bris is not considered a Mumar for the whole Torah. This position is adopted in Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh Deah 2:7 see also Shach Y.D. 264:4). As such, doesn't the one who does not have the Bris fall into the category of those who commit a sin for which they are not excommunicated (Orach Chaim 55:11)? If the answer is yes, then they can be counted for a Minyan. Yet, the Tzitz Eliezer (Xi:9) felt that his case was not one where this acceptance would lead to Kiruv and decided against admitting the Arel to a Minyan.
The issue of allowing such a young man to receive an Aliya is even more difficult. In Sefer Mayim Rabim (Yoreh Deah 51) the question is raised about a person who ran away from the government, moved into a town of Jews, went to Minyan each day, acted like a Jew in all respects but never had a Bris done because he could not afford the cost. If he were to buy Pesicha, could he keep it? The students decided that in terms of holding the Torah, here there is a Shaas HaDechak because he wants a Bris and the times won't allow him to get it. Ergo, He could be Meikil perhaps. Still, in regular cases, we might be Machmir against allowing an Arel to touch a Tashmish Kedusha. However, in regards to Tefillin, he can't put them on. The logic is that how can a person with an Arlah possibly testify to the word of God with his same body that defies that word at the same time? The Roshei Yeshiva were more Machmir and did not allow the man to receive Pesicha so that others would not learn not to have a Bris.
The Shoel U'Mashiv (Tinyanna, II:64) didn't allow such a person with an Arlah to Duchan as well. He felt that since a person with an Arlah is in effect cursing God, how can the same person bless him at the same time?
The Tzitz Eliezer (xi:9) thus Paskins that the young man without the Bris because of his father's ungrounded fear is reason enough to keep him from receiving an Aliya and perhaps even celebrating any form of Bar Mitzva.