Way back when, before the Democrats or Republicans were even thought of, a debate of an entirely different nature occupied the biblical stage.

Ishmael and Isaac were having it out. The topic: circumcision.

"See here," says Ishmael, "I am more precious in G‑d's eyes, since I was thirteen when I had mine done."

"I beg to differ," answered Isaac. "I was eight days old. Now that's gotta be way cooler."

You know, if I wasn't Isaac's grandson, I think I would side with the great uncle. Let's face it. Ishmael has a point.

He had the choice. He felt the pain. Here was a guy who chose to serve G‑d. That's real.

Isaac, on the other hand, was barely in diapers. Eight days old. What did he know? He didn't feel a thing (well, almost).


The Hebrew word for the special mitzvah of circumcision is brit, which translates as "covenant."

What is a covenant?

Two friends enjoying a relationship decide to take it a step further. One turns to the other and says, "Now things are great. This is going real well. But there may come a time when we may not feel for each other. You may not appeal to me anymore. The qualities that drew me to you and you to me may fade or dissipate. What then?"

So they make a pact, a covenant. An unconditional commitment that come what may, they will always be there for each other.

They have taken a relationship that was limited to reasons and made it unlimited and pure. They have taken something from the conscious and moved it to the realm of the subconscious, from the external to the internal and finally to the eternal.

"On that day, G‑d formed a pact with Abraham..." (Genesis 15:18).

G‑d: Today I am in love. You are My beloved. You are overflowing with faith, a paradigm of self-sacrifice, a lover of G‑d, a man filled with kindness...

There will come a time, though, when your children will look slightly different. They will rebel and complain, ignore and forget. They will be unfaithful to Me time and again. They will run, they will hide, they will try to assimilate.

What then?

Abraham: And what about Egypt and Pharaoh, 40 years in the desert, wars and more wars, eviction from the Holy Land, the destruction of both Holy Temples, exile after exile, the Spanish Inquisition, the persecution and oppression, the Cossacks and the Crusades, the ghettos and pogroms, the yellow Stars of David, Kristallnacht and Auschwitz, the Intifada and the Katyushas, missiles and suicide bombers? My little Shalhevet... What then?

"On that day, G‑d formed a pact with Abraham."

An unconditional pact. A commitment for all times. A bond of eternity.

"This is the pact that you should observe, between Me and you and your seed forever; every male should be circumcised."

On the other hand, Ishmael's choice was limited. There was a reason behind his choice. He chose because... "Because" is a limitation. It is conditional and, ergo, short term.

A human's finite fingerprints have no place in the world of an infinite pact.

It is precisely this choice that is out of place.

Isaac, on the other hand, slept like a babe.

He didn't get in the way. That's the only way it can work.

Forever and ever.