CHASSIDISHE STORY ON THE PARSHA
Parshas Lech Lecha
ואברהם בן תשעים ותשע שנה בהמלו בשר ערלתו (לך יז:כד)Avraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised on the flesh of his surplusage.
Chazal says that Avraham Avinu fulfilled all the mitzvahs of the Torah before the Torah was given on Har Sinai. Therefore, why didn’t he circumcise himself until he was ninety-nine when Hashem commanded him to do so?
The elders of Vilna, the Misnagdim, presented this question to the Vilna Gaon zt’l when he was five years old. The Vilna Gaon replied that Chazal say, “גדול המצוה ועושה… – a mitzvah’s reward is greater when one is commanded to do so than from someone who performs a mitzvah and is not commanded to do so.” Thus, Avraham Avinu could perform all mitzvahs before he was commanded to do so, hoping that when he was commanded to perform the mitzvahs, he would perform מצוה ועושה – a mitzvah that he was commanded to do.
But if Avraham Avinu had performed the mitzvah of Bris Milah before he was commanded, he wouldn’t have been able to circumcise himself again when Hashem commanded him to.
Harav Reb Burich of Mezbidz zt’’l was asked the same question when he was eight years old, and he answered: Avraham Avinu was able to perform all mitzvahs before he was commanded to do so since it’s not an aveira (sin) to perform a mitzvah. But the mitzvah of Bris Milah violates the transgression that a person isn’t allowed to inflict harm on himself. Therefore, Avraham Avinu didn’t circumcise himself until he was commanded to do so.
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