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Parshat Parah

On the Shabbat immediately following Purim we gather together[1]

to read Parshat Parah in the Synagogue;


The sages instituted the reading of the Para Aduma at this time of

year to specifically remind us of the purification process that was an

essential part of the Pesach preparations. One who was made impure through contact with the dead and other kinds of ritual impurities was not only forbidden from entering the Beit Hamikdash but was forbidden to partake in the Korban Pesach which was a lamb roasted and eaten communally. Interestingly[2] this important Parsha can actually be read on a subsequent Shabbat until the festival of Pesach commences.


The usage of the symbolic cow was also for another reason, the

Children of Israel having incorrectly worshipped the Golden Calf[3]

were now commanded to be involved with a different Spiritual work with the Para Aduma; it is interesting to consider that many of the laws of washing the hands are learned out from this Parsha[4] - This is a fundamental Torah concept: despite major issues, sins, damage having been performed the Torah provides us with a mechanism to correct the damage – this idea of Tikkun is essential and calls our narrative back to the Garden of Eden and the necessity of the Human being to undertake self-correction of themselves and seek betterment and mastery over their lower nature.


There have been only nine such heifers in history, and tradition

informs us that there will be another in the future times of the

Moshiach - may it come speedily:


In September 2022 through a joint effort established between a Christian ministry, Boneh Israel, and The Temple Institute in Jerusalem, 5 kosher red heifers were transported from Texas to Israel!


The Midrash[5] explains that King Solomon wrote in the book[6] Kohelet (known in English as Ecclesiastes), “I had said I would become wise—but it is far from me.” The Midrash explains, “With all the other [laws of the Torah] I held my footing (understood), but when it comes to the teaching of the red heifer although I analysed, I asked and I researched [it was without full understanding].”


The reason for this is that the Mitzvah of the Red Heifer is

understood as a Chok – that is, a law without a rationality behind it:


The Mitzvot are divided into two general categories: Mishpatim

(logical "laws" or "judgements") and Chukkim ("decrees" that do not necessarily have a logical component).


Examples of Mishpatim are Mitzvot such as giving charity or laws

prohibiting and punishing theft and murder – it seems logical to us

that we would have created these laws and instituted them as socially important concepts and fundamental laws through logical reasoning alone.


The Chukkim are those mitzvot by contrast, such as the dietary laws

of Kosher or the laws of Niddah (family purity), which we accept as

divine decrees, despite their inability to be reduced to purely

logical requirements.


A third category called Eidot ("testimonials"), occupies the middle

ground between the (Chukkim) decrees and the (Mishpatim) laws. An Eidot is a mitzvah which commemorates or represents something — e.g., the commandments to put on tefillin, rest on Shabbat, or eat matzah on Passover. These are laws which we would not have devised on our own, certainly not in the exact way the Torah commands; nevertheless, they are rational acts only once their profound significance is explained to us, we can appreciate them on an intellectual level.


One must ask the question to what advantage is it that some of the

Laws of the Torah are not logical – or at times even run contrary to

how we might think things should be done?


One answer is that the exercise of being humble before Hashem has an important prerequisite step:


We live in a world where through the mechanisms of science and

technology we delve into the mysteries of the physics of the universe and use high-powered electron microscope to gaze into the hidden structure of life and other materials, we map the cosmos and are able to communicate to each other at almost instantons speeds across the globe, each of us has direct access to more and more information in our pocket than the greatest libraries could ever hold.


Such a world is capable of producing a creature who does not remember that our existence is a powerful and exciting mystery, that no matter how much we might understand the created world, God[7] is not part of Creation.


In the same way that the pottery does not resemble the artist who

forms it: the lack of physicality and corporeality makes understanding Hashem in a true sense impossible – His Torah also has elements that even the wisest and greatest scholars, even King Solomon himself were not able to perceive and understand – our Torah perspective is that no matter what we already know, no matter what we will discover, the mystery of life, God and our faith will continue to be profoundly beyond our ability to understand and quantify.


Shabbat Shalom!



________________________________

[1] Beit Yosef: OC 685; OC 146:2; 685:7 – many authorities understand that it is a Rabbinical requirement to hear the reading - Halachic authorities agree that the Kohanim were required by the Torah to read the Parshat Parah passages as they were the ones who would practically prepare the Para Aduma.

[2] Aruch Hashulchan, OC 685:7.

[3] Bamidbar 19:22 (See Rashi there).

[4] Mishna Berura 159:1; see also Shaar Hatziun 159:1.

[5] Midrash Tanchuma: Chukat: 6

[6] Kohelet/Ecclesiastes: 7:23

[7] See Rambam: Mishneh Torah: Foundations of the Torah & Derech Hashem: Foundations: The Creator.

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