By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
Dedicated in memory of Elka bas Zisel OBM
And in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM
The Parsha this week, Emor, (Vayikra (Leviticus) 21:1-24:23) presents an interesting Mitzva. “A bull, sheep or goat that is born to you shall remain under its mother for seven days. From the eighth day onward it is acceptable as an offering to G-d" (Vayikra (Leviticus) 22:27).
Why does the Torah refer to the newborn animals by their mature names instead of the usual calf, lamb and kid? The Torah wants to teach us that an animal is born with its entire potential already actualized. It cannot develop into something greater than it already is at this “age”.
Its qualities will never erode, but its inherent faults will always remain.
Young at Heart
Not so for human beings. Man is always capable of more. Rabbi Akiva, for example, was forty years old before he learned to read Hebrew, yet he became one of the greatest Torah scholar in history. Every human being, background and affiliation notwithstanding, can transform him or herself and thus make great strides forward.
The Circumcision Milestone
A calf is born and lives for one week. Having completed one full cycle of life, it reaches its greatest milestone: it is ready to be brought as an offering before G-d. There is no sense in waiting any longer for it won't develop into more than it already is. Mankind, on the other hand, lives for one week and only then begins the journey. Circumcision, performed on the eighth day, enables us to begin a process that only intensifies as we grow and mature.
(Though girls are not circumcised they don't miss out on this process. Jewish thought views women as endowed at birth with the inherent quality that men receive only at circumcision. In this sense women begin their process of spiritual growth one week earlier, from the time of birth.)
It is never too late to turn over a new leaf. Life is filled with milestones. Birth, circumcision, bar/bat mitzvah, graduation, marriage, parenting, grand parenting and so on. If physical maturity marches inexorably forward, it follows that spiritual maturity can, and should, at the very least, keep pace.
(excerpts from chabad.org - Rabbi Lazer Gurkow)