Thursday, October 29, 2009

Why we stand at a bris

The mishnah in Bikkurim 3:3 says that when the first fruits were brought to Jerusalem during the holiday season in the times of Temple, workers would stop what they were doing to greet those carrying the fruit.

Rabbi Ovadiah of Bartenura asks why they did this. While there is a custom/law to stand out of respect for scholars, the rule is inapplicable to workers who are busy at their trade. If one need not stand for scholars, one certainly should not have to interrupt work to stand for regular people carrying fruit!

He answers that we are not standing out of respect for the persons or for the fruits. We are standing because at the moment the actual mitzvah is being performed, it is beloved. Thus we stand out of respect for the loving feeling we have for the mitzvah at the time it is being fulfilled.

This is why there is also a custom to stand for the pallbearers who carry the deceased past us and [on the opposite end of the circle of life] to stand for those who carry a baby into his bris.

Those who participate in a bris know the joy of the moment, the special feeling in the room. Emotions run extremely high when those attending have a deep understanding of the special significance of the bris, and have a feeling that the mitzvah being fulfilled is indeed beloved to all who are present.

One way to express respect garnered from the love emotion is to stand when subject of that love, the item or person, passes by.

As this is certainly the case for the baby at a bris, and hopefully for the mitzvah being fulfilled through the baby, we have the custom to stand for the bris itself.

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