Parashat Tazria begins by presenting several laws that apply after a woman delivers a child, including the mitzva of berit mila: “On the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be removed” (12:3).
The Gemara in Masekhet Shabbat (130a) cites in reference to the mitzva of berit mila the verse in Tehillim (119:162), “Sas anokhi al imratekha ke-motzei shalal rav” – “I exult over Your staements, like one who comes upon a vast amount of spoils.” This verse, the Gemara comments, was said by King David to express the special joy he experienced when contemplating the mitzva of berit mila, the sign of the covenant with God permantly imprinted on his body.
Rav Yitzchak Pinchas Goldwasser, in his Mei Zahav, notes the significance of the comparison drawn here by the Gemara between circumcision and “shalal” – a term used primarily in reference to spoils of war. A triumphant army enjoys the riches seized from its defeated opponents only after a long, grueling battle, and often after suffering injury and trauma. “Shalal” is not something which somebody chances upon effortlessly and without sacrifice; it is earned only after enduring a difficult period of hardship. And this might very well be the symbolic message of circumcision. Our covenant with God is formally established with an experience of pain and sacrifice, to indicate that the great benefits of this special relationship often require a degree of hardship and selfless devotion. Of course, pain and suffering are not viewed as an ideal. However, the experience of circumcision instructs that we cannot expect our status as God’s treasured nation to always be simple and smooth. It requires hard work and sacrifice.
King David elatedly proclaimed, “Sas anokhi al imratekha ke-motzei shalal rav.” He rejoiced over God’s commands even as he recognized that they are “shalal,” that they often entail difficult “battles,” struggles and sacrifices. We cannot expect mitzvot to always be easy, and we must not allow the complexities and challenges of Torah life to diminish from our joy and sense of fulfillment over the privilege we have to live such a life.