Likrat Shabbat-Shabbat and Brit
There is a definite connection to be seen between Shabbat and Brit Milah. For one thing, Brit Milah is not pre-empted due to Shabbat, despite the many other Mitzvot d’Orayta that are, including Shofar, Lulav, and Building the Beit Hamikdash. For another, the only non-Shabbat topic elaborated upon in Tractate Shabbat is Brit Milah, in the chapter “R’ Eliezer d’Milah”. These are two ways of saying that Brit Milah belongs with Shabbat.
How should we understand the meaning of this connection between Shabbat and Brit Milah?
In our awareness that Shabbat is a day on which we rest from Melacha as God rested from the Six Days of Creation, we can make an error and mistakenly conclude that Shabbat is a day on which we are enjoined to desist from all creative work.
This is not so and it reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of Shabbat.
While Shabbat may be a day off from work, the only creativity we cease performing is the kind of creativity needed in order to maintain the world’s functioning, a creativity largely associated with the work of the hands. But Shabbat is actually an intensely creative day. It’s just that the creativity of Shabbat is the creativity of existence, not maintenance, and it is associated with the spirit, mind, and heart, as expressed through the mouth in word, prayer, and song.
To prove that Shabbat is indeed a day of creativity, the Torah makes sure Shabbat has a particularly strong connection to Brit Milah. With Brit Milah performed as it is on the chief bodily organ of creativity, the message of its connection to Shabbat is that Shabbat too must serve as an organ of creativity, through Chiddushei Torah and innovations in acts of kindness and acts of d’veykut (bonding with God).
Indeed, so linked are the two concepts that they even share the words of the phrase Zachor v’Shamor. With regard to Shabbat, of course, Zachor and Shamor were uttered in one expression. But Brit Milah too is performed on the male organ (Zachar) and is the only Mitzvah other than Shabbat about which the Torah specifies our obligation as one of guarding (Shamor – Lishmor et Briti).
As one bumper sticker puts it: Shabbat is not a day off. It is a day ON.