By: Esther Aboud

Sefer Berit Yizhak – Berit V’Torah

Hardcover

Publisher, Machon Da’at Zekenim, 2010

Rabbi Hayim Asher Arking

It’s the night before a new baby boy’s berit mila. Ten men have gathered together at the baby’s home to fulfill the time-honored custom among Sepharadim to recite selected portions of the Zohar. Why?

For generations, our community has steadfastly held onto the tradition of the Berit Yizhak ceremony. But today, few people truly understand the reasons for this custom, the Aramaic text, or its relevance to the missva of berit mila.

In his new work Berit V’Torah, Rabbi Hayim A. Arking, who is both a mohel and the accomplished hazan of Congregation Ohel Simha (Park Avenue Synagogue) in Long Branch, New Jersey, presents clear English summaries of the excerpts from the Zohar read at the Berit Yizhak. Enhancing our understanding and appreciation of this custom, the explanations not only provide access to the meanings of the otherwise nebulous text, they also help us absorb the message and spirit of this beautiful missva. The delicate task was undertaken under the direction and approval of the acclaimed Rosh Yeshiva and Kabbalist, Hacham Yaakov Hillel, shelita, to ensure that the explanation is correct and that the words are not directly translated, in accordance with the instructions of the Ben Ish Hai.

The beautifully bound volume also features the well known Hebrew commentary on the Zohar,Matok Midevash by Rabbi Daniel Frish, z.s.l. (1935-2005), one of the greatest mekubalim in Jerusalem of this past generation.

Additionally, the book contains the full text of the berit mila service as well as the traditional Sephardic pizmonim (hymns) for the occasion.

The Protection of Torah Study

Our rabbis teach that the missva of berit mila brings kedusha (holiness) to the child and protects him from gehinnom. The Satan, recognizing the spiritual benefits of this special missva, does everything in its power to sabotage our performance of this missva. The study of Torah on the night before a child’s berit serves to protect the baby from harm by foiling the nefarious schemes of the Satan, and also brings great merit to all those involved.

The passages selected by the hachamim to be recited on this night are taken from the Zohar on parashat Lech Lecha, and the introduction of the Zohar. These portions teach us the importance and power of berit mila, the invaluable benefits afforded to those who fulfill the missva, and the importance of guarding the berit mila from impurity.

The study of Torah is so crucial to the spiritual well-being of the child that some have the custom to stay up learning Torah several nights before the mila. In some communities, Torah students are paid to study the entire night in the baby’s home, to infuse the child with higher levels of holiness.

Sefer Berit Yizhak – Berit V’Torah is sure to infuse new meaning into the Berit Yizhak ritual for Sephardic communities throughout the English speaking world. The book is available now at many local bookstores throughout the New York/New Jersey metropolitan areas. For information about volume purchases or dedications, contact Rabbi Hayim Arking at rharking@ohelsimha.com or 732-331-7002.