Here is one of the ideas that has kept me positive since I was diagnosed with ALS. I feel that G‑d has chosen me for a mission. And though I don’t like my situation and want to be healed, I understand that He put me here for a reason. And as long as I am here, I will use my situation to do His work, in any way I can, uplifting the spirits of people through teaching, smiling and finding good in the people I meet.

In this week’s parshah, Lech Lecha, we read that G‑d commanded Abraham that he and all his male descendants should have a brit (“circumcision”). And so, at the age of 99, he circumcised himself, thereby entering into a covenant with G‑d.

This is so significant that even today, when someone has a brit, the blessing we say at the end is “to enter him into the covenant of Abraham our father.”

The Rambam (Maimonides) tells us, that when we do a brit today, it is not done because of the command to Abraham. Rather, we do it because of the command G‑d gave to Moses at Sinai. The same is true regarding all mitzvahs that our ancestors kept before the giving of the Torah. We are not required to do them because they did them, but because G‑d commanded us to at Mount Sinai. If this is the case, why do we say, “to enter him into the covenant of Abraham our father”? Wouldn’t it make more sense to say, “to enter him into the covenant with G‑d”?

Another question: Mitzvahs are to be done with joy, as it says, “Serve Hashem with joy.” Yet here we are required to do something that causes pain, the opposite of joy? Even more, pain is part of the mitzvah, and because of that, we generally don’t use anesthetics. Why are we required to do a mitzvah that causes pain? And why is pain part of the mitzvah?

Quoting the Zohar and other classic sources, the Shulchan Aruch Harav (“Code of Law” from Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the first Chabad Rebbe) tells us that the neshamah (“soul”) enters the body at the brit. However, we are taught that an angel teaches the baby Torah while in the womb, which would mean that the neshamah is already present in the womb. So what does he mean by saying that it enters at the brit?

There is a difference between the neshamah being present and its entering the body. When a boy is born, the neshamah is already present; however, it is not fused with the physical body. The act of the brit on the physical body fuses the physical and the spiritual—the neshamah with the body.

This is also the purpose of every Jew: to make this world into a dwelling place for G‑d’s presence by fusing physical existence with holiness. We do this by using physical objects and places, in their natural state, for mitzvahs or to serve G‑d. When it comes to the body, we do a brit to create this fusion, and since we want the effect to be complete, we do it in the most natural way, hence the necessity of pain. While in normal circumstances, we may not put ourselves into a situation that will cause pain to our bodies, but here, in order to fulfill G‑d’s commandment properly, we find joy in doing His mitzvah even with the pain.

(With a girl, the fusion happens at the naming. This is why we try to name a girl by the Torah at the first possible opportunity).

The question is asked: Why do we make such a big deal about Abraham’s sacrifice at the Akeida—the binding of his son Isaac on to the altar—when throughout our history many have sacrificed themselves in a similar fashion and perhaps greater? Abraham had a direct command from G‑d, while they did not? The answer is that he was the first; he “broke the ice” for the rest to follow. It’s hard to be the first, but once it has been done, it becomes easier for others to do.

Perhaps the same is true for the brit. Since Abraham was the first, he made it easier for those who came after him.

Still, you may ask: How can you compare other forms of sacrifice with brit? In other cases, there is a mental edge, knowing that Abraham already did it, which makes it a little easier.

And yet, a brit is done to a baby, who has no idea what Abraham did or didn’t do. And just because Abraham had a brit first doesn’t make the physical pain of another one any less—even for an adult who does know about him.

This is the reason why we say the blessing, “to enter him into the covenant of Abraham.” Because just like Abraham, everyone who has a brit is as if he is the first.

The same is true for all painful situations G‑d puts us in. If we can see them as a mission from G‑d, we will find meaning, purpose and maybe even joy in the pain.

May G‑d send Moshiach and put an end to our pain. The time has come.