Our sages note that the mitzvah of brit milah (the covenant of circumcision) carries the promise of three rewards: 1) manifestation of the divine presence amongst the the Jewish people, 2) eternal ownership of the land of Israel, and 3) the preservation of the royal House of David.1

Being that circumcision serves as a mark of the covenant between G‑d and the Jewish people, it can easily be understood to lead to a manifestation of the divine presence. But what in the nature of circumcision leads to ownership of the land of Israel and the preservation of David's line?

To understand why performance of circumcision leads to these specific gifts, it is necessary to first gain a better understanding of circumcision itself.

The Eight-Day-Old Jew

"And on the eighth day," the Torah instructs, "the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised."2 The requirement of circumcision at the tender age of eight days raises an important question:

Why is the eternal covenant of divine manifestation granted to an infant, who is completely oblivious to its distinction? Furthermore, how can we know if the infant will ever learn to appreciate it? Shouldn't we wait till he has demonstrated at least a modicum of commitment before we bestow such a gift upon him?

Experiential and Intrinsic

We are connected to G‑d on two separate levels: the experiential and the intrinsic.3

The experiential bond is determined by the degree of our devotion to G‑d. The greater our passion is for G‑d, the more will we want to seek Him out. The greater our yearning for G‑d, the more committed we will be to His commandments.

On this level, we fulfill his instructions because we love Him and desire His closeness. We understand that every commandment is a channel for connection, and every transgression is the severance of a channel. The intensity of this bond depends completely upon us. We can build it and we can sever it.

The intrinsic bond works in the reverse: from the top down rather than the bottom up. G‑d has bound Himself to our essence, thereby forging an intrinsic connection with us. This bond is inescapable. Whether we are cognizant of it or oblivious to it, we and G‑d are forever one.

This intrinsic bond is not adjustable. Our sins don't diminish it and our mitzvahs don't enhance it. It is a bond with the infinite, and the infinite cannot be adjusted. The pious and the wicked, the honest and the corrupt, the scholar and the simpleton are identically and inherently bound to G‑d.

The experiential bond is our connection with G‑d. The intrinsic bond is G‑d's connection with us. While we might terminate our relationship with G‑d, G‑d never terminates his relationship with us.

It is this intrinsic bond that is reflected in the circumcision's covenant of divine manifestation. The covenant is deliberately administered during infancy because the infant is completely oblivious to the magnitude of its impact. The infant's cognizance of its manifestation is completely immaterial to this bond. It is not enhanced by his allegiance nor can it be diminished by his perfidy.4

The Land of Israel

Though the experiential and intrinsic bonds are independent of each other, they nevertheless affect each other. When our intrinsic bond is pronounced, our experiential bond is strengthened. As we said, the intrinsic bond represents G‑d's connection with us, while the experiential bond represents our connection with G‑d. When G‑d sees that we pronounce His connection with us, He is willing to strengthen and support our connection with Him.

We pronounce His connection with us through circumcision. G‑d strengthens our connection with Him through the Land of Israel. This is perhaps why the Land of Israel was promised to the Jewish people in reward for keeping the mitzvah of circumcision.

The prophet Isaiah writes, "As a young man espouses a maiden, so shall your children settle in you; and like the bridegroom's rejoicing over his bride, so shall your G‑d rejoice over you."5 This verse informs us that when we settle the land of Israel, G‑d rejoices over us, which in turn inspires us to relate to Him as a bride would to her groom—the experiential bond.

This is why Isaiah employs the analogy of the love between husband and wife in this verse. The bond between a bride and groom is experiential. They have no intrinsic love for each other (such as exists intrinsically between a parent and child or between siblings, for example) for they aren't joined at their essence. Their love fluctuates. As their marriage grows, so does their love. As their love grows, so does their attraction to each other.

Their relationship is analogous to the experiential bond between G‑d and the Jewish people. Thus, when we settle in our land G‑d "rejoices over us as a bridegroom over his bride." This in turn strengthens our bride-like connection to G‑d—our experiential bond.

The experiential bond tends to fluctuate depending on our environment. The environment in the Land of Israel enhances this bond in ways that are simply not possible in the Diaspora.

A Jew in Israel is spiritually more open to inspiration. The Torah can only be fully appreciated and understood in the Land of Israel.6 Many of the Torah's commandments are only applicable in the Land of Israel. With the exception of Moses, every one of our Prophets lived, at least for awhile, in the Holy Land. This land opens many lines of connection that are simply not available in the Diaspora. These lines of connection are the life force of our experiential bond.7

It is fitting that we merit to settle in the Land of Israel in reward for the mitzvah of circumcision. In circumcision we give expression to G‑d's intrinsic bond with us. Through the Land of Israel, G‑d gives expression to our experiential bond with Him.8

The Davidic Line of Descent

Jewish tradition teaches that the Messiah--Moshiach in Hebrew—must be a direct patrilineal descendant of King David.9 For the Jewish messianic hope to stay alive it is vital that the Davidic line be preserved.

Thus the preservation of the House of David is offered as the final reward for the mitzvah of circumcision. The first reward, divine manifestation, promises an intrinsic bond with G‑d. The second reward, ownership over the land of Israel, promises an experiential bond with G‑d. The third reward, Moshiach, promises to merge the two bonds together.

Our prophets describe the Messianic era as a time when the human eye will gaze upon G‑d's very essence.10 Now, human vision is a metaphor for our experiential bond with G‑d because, like this bond, its range is finite. It is possible to gaze upon a moderate amount of light, and with effort we might increase the range of that light, but it is impossible to gaze directly upon an intense source of light such as the sun. Yet the messianic prophecy promises that the human eye will gaze directly upon G‑d's very essence. How is this possible? Through the merit of circumcision.

Circumcision enhances our intrinsic bond as well as our experiential bond with G‑d. The former strengthens our connection to G‑d's essence, the latter strengthens our capacity to metaphorically gaze upon the more limited expressions of G‑dliness. When our bond with G‑d succeeds on both levels, we become highly deserving of the third and greatest reward, the preservation of the Davidic line—the messianic prophecy, which promises to merge the two bonds together.

Indeed, when the Moshiach comes we will merit an experiential bond with G‑d's very essence.