The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs
The Purity of Parshat Parah
By: Rav Ari Waxman
Mashgiach of the Moty Hornstein Institute of Yeshivat Sha'alvim
"This is the law of the Torah...and you will take a red cow (parah aduma)". The usage of the word "Torah" (rather than sufficing with "This is the law of the cow") implies that here lies a fundamental message that applies to the entire Torah. We will attempt to focus on this principle that emanates from this parsha (section of the Torah).
The Midrash Rabba (19:1) marshals a mishna from Masechet Parah (4:4) that states that all individuals involved in the parah aduma purification process experience a form of spiritual defilement- their clothes become tameh (metamin begadim). This is perplexing; the parah aduma facilitates the spiritual cleansing of clothes! The Midrash relates the directive of Hashem: "I have engraved a law (chukka), decreed My decree; you have no permission to transgress it".
The parsha of Parah was specifically engraved-nechkaka. Writing comes in two forms. A. Standard Writing- black on white. One material is placed on another. The written word is a distinct entity from the object that it is written upon. Thus, it may be removed. B. Engraving (chakika). The writing constitutes an indivisible part of the material that it appears upon. There is a total identity between the two components; they form one entity.
At the root of the word "tumah" is "tam" that connotes something hidden. For example, an individual whose intellect is not apparent is referred to as "metumtam". Likewise, a person whose sexual identity is covered is termed a "tumtum". This realm stands in stark contrast to the universe of "taharah" (purity). The root of taharah implies clarity and transparency. The mishna in Masechet Yoma (59a) terms the most revealed portion of the alter as "tihuro shel mizbeach". Tumah- the hidden; the concealed; Taharah- the revealed, the unambiguous.
The tumah that emanates from the deceased (tumat meit) is the most severe of all tumot (avi avot hatumah). It erects a formidable barrier that blocks the view of the true reality of our existence; the connection between this world and the World to Come. The thirteen articles of faith constitute the healthy vision of the Jew. The final principle states: "I believe with perfect faith that there will be a resurrection of the dead that will stem from the desire of Hashem, may His Name be blessed". In Sefer Devarim (32:39) the Holy One, Blessed be He, states: "I cause death and life; I have broken (machatzti) and I will heal". Chazal (in Sifri) comment that the division that I have placed (mechitzati- based on the word machatzti) between the upper and lower worlds I will heal. In the future Hashem will remove this division, this cover- death- that presently divides and separates the exalted and mundane orbits.
The purification from tumat met is achieved via the form of chakika-engraving; unity between the words and the base on which they appear. This is the formula for taharah-a total identification between the Torah and our hearts (as Chazal refer to the Torah as "charut al haluchot"- engraved upon our hearts)."Vetahar lebainu le'avdecha be'emet!"
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