Going Beyond the Natural

Yael Eckstein  |  March 28, 2022

dawn of a new day

On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised. — Leviticus 12:3

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Tazria, which means “conceived” from Leviticus 12:1-13:59.

In the second century, Quintus Tineius Rufus was the Roman governor over the land of Israel. He was opposed to the Jewish religion and liked to antagonize the rabbis. He once asked Rabbi Akiva, the leading sage of the time, “Why do you Jews circumcise? Aren’t God’s creations perfect?”

Rabbi Akiva brought out stalks of wheat and some baked loaves of bread. He said to the governor, “These stalks are the work of God. And these loaves are the work of man. Are these loaves not more beautiful?” Tineius Rufus replied, “So if God wanted us to be circumcised, why are we not born that way?” Rabbi Akiva answered, “Because God wanted us to refine ourselves through His commandments.”

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the commandment to circumcise baby boys when they are eight days old. Why the eighth day? What is significant about this day specifically?

Going Beyond the Natural

The Creation Story in Genesis lasted seven days. There were the first six days followed by the Sabbath, when God rested. According to Jewish teaching, the number seven represents God’s creation. The natural cycle of the week is seven days long. The number eight symbolizes going one step beyond the natural system. The eighth day requirement teaches us the deeper meaning of circumcision. Circumcision represents going beyond the natural.

Of course, God could have created the world in its completed and perfect state. But then what would be the point? As Rabbi Akiva explained to the pagan Roman governor, God created the natural world with imperfections. This was God’s intention. The reason God did this was so that we would have a task.

Our task is to take the raw potential of nature and transform it into something greater, to perfect it. On the personal level, we all have natural tendencies and flaws that we need to repair and improve. God could have made us perfect, but He wanted us to serve him by improving ourselves.

I sometimes hear people justifying immoral behavior by saying, “It’s natural.” But who says God wanted us just to be natural? The eighth day represents going beyond the natural. God wants us to be supernatural.

Your Turn:

Do you have traits or tendencies that God gave you that you need to work on? Embrace this task with love; it’s what you were born to do!