A leopard can’t change its spots, but a man can…
“And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.” — VaYikrah 12:3
The Jew has a distinct role amongst the nations
The Sefer Ha’Chinuch explains that HASHEM separated the Jewish people from all the nations. We were given a distinct role in this world. Our lives and everything that we do must be different than any other people.
To remind us of this, HASHEM gave us a sign, a permanent reminder of our uniqueness – the mitzvah of milah. The change in our bodies shows that just as the body of the Jew is different than that of a gentile, so too is our soul.
By all rights, the Jewish baby boy should have been born already circumcised, as this would have more clearly shown that the Jew is unique amongst the peoples. However, there is a second lesson that HASHEM wanted to impart to us. Just like a person can take his body and permanently change it, so too, a person can change his very essence – his nishoma. Therefore, rather than creating the Jew circumcised at birth, HASHEM gave us this mitzvah to perform.
Question on the Sefer Ha’Chinuch
This explanation of the Sefer Ha’Chinuch is difficult to understand. Since HASHEM wanted us to know that we are a nation apart from any other nation, then surely as he said, the Jew should have been born circumcised. Wouldn’t that difference have been more clearly shown had the very genetic material of the Jewish person been different? The Chinese are clearly distinct from the Occidental. The skin colors of various peoples show them as distinct races. Had the Jew been born without a foreskin, the entire world would have known that this people is set apart. Throughout the millennium, every person would have clearly seen that the Jews are unique. From birth they were different, so their very essence is different. Yet that difference has now been lost. Any human can circumcise himself; in fact, many non-Jews do. Wouldn’t it have been a far more powerful lesson for us as a nation to know that we are different because we were born that way?