(Torah Portion Chukas) Red!
The most perplexing law in the Torah is the process of the Parah Adumah – Red Heifer. The Red Heifer had to be completely red, and was slaughtered and burnt in a unique and specific way. Its ashes were mixed with fresh spring water and sprinkled on a Jew who became ritually impure through contact with a human corpse. The proscribed process was performed on the third and seventh day of his purification, and releases the person from this impurity deeming him ritually pure, thus permitting him to enter into the confines of the Holy Temple.
What is most perplexing with this law is that those involved in the preparations and sprinkling of the ashes of the Red Heifer became (mildly) impure, while the person who received the ashes process became pure. So in effect, those who were in a state of purity before applying the ash became impure, while the ones who were impure became pure.
The understanding of this law was beyond King Solomon, the wisest of all people. King Solomon resigned himself not to seek its ultimate explanation because he knew this law was categorized as a Chok – a statute, a Mitzvah whose reason is beyond our comprehension. When we obey a Chok, we demonstrate our commitment to follow G-d’s command whether we understand it or not.
There are a variety of laws that fit into the category of statutes. For example, the only reason we were given the laws of Kosher is that G-d sanctified us by giving us a holy and elevated diet.
Concerning the law of the Red Heifer – the Torah says, “This is the statute of the Torah.” Commentators ask, what is unique about the statute of the Red heifer that it is specifically categorized as “The statute of the Torah”?
Rabbi Dovid Feinstein explains the connection between the Torah and the Red Heifer. Just as the ashes of the Red Heifer unleashes and releases a person from the state of ritual impurity to the status of purity, so too, when one conscientiously studies and observes the Torah he is transformed. When one embraces and absorbs the message of Torah, it transforms and elevates him to be more mindful and astute regarding his relationships with G-d and man.
How does this work? After all, when one studies math or science it doesn’t necessarily change the person to be better or kinder, yet one who studies Torah becomes elevated and inspired. The answer is that it is beyond our understanding, similar to the Red Heifer which we can’t understand how it affords purity!
I was thinking that perhaps we can trace a similarity between the uniqueness of the person sprinkling the ash of the Red Heifer which deems him impure while the person on the receiving end becomes pure, and one’s commitment to the study and to the observances of the Torah.
A person who chooses to sprinkle the ash of the Red heifer in order to cleanse someone else from their impurity, sacrifices his own purity. Thus, he must be unselfish and willing to give up from himself for the betterment of others. Similarly, one who commits himself to the study of Torah and dedicates himself to perform the Mitzvos of the Torah, also involves a degree of unselfishness and graciousness, for he gives up from his personal life forgoing on his own wants, pursuits and desires, in order to achieve higher spiritual pursuits and goals.
Every time a person is faced with an inner struggle between balancing his personal interests against his spiritual responsibilities and chooses to sacrifice his own personal pursuits choosing what the Torah expects him to do, has shown an awesome loyalty to G-d, and his efforts will be met with incredible and extraordinary blessings and rewards!
Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!
Rabbi Dovid Saks