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YIP Parsha Project Parshat Chukat

06/24/2014 06:43:08 PM


YIP Parsha Project

Chukat                                                                                                Verstaendig


In Parshas Chukas, we learn the laws connected with the Red Cow. The cow was brought to the Mount of Olives where it was slaughtered. A priest would dip his finger in the blood and fling the blood towards the Temple seven times. Then a pure man had to burn the cow, and yet another pure man would gather its ashes and put them in water that was drawn from wells by pure children. The water-ash mixture was then sprinkled -- over the course of a week -- on anyone who had touched, carried, or been under the same roof as a corpse. At the conclusion of the week, that person would immerse in a mikveh to become pure of the impurity contracted from the dead. However, the Torah specifies that the man who burned the cow, the man who gathered the ashes, and anyone who even touches the water-ash mixture becomes impure and must immerse in a mikveh themselves and wait until the end of the day before they can eat terumah or sacrificial meat.


No explanation is given for this; in fact, the whole procedure is called Chukas HaTorah because a choke is a mitzva that we do even though we don't know the reasons for it. However, we can learn a very important lesson from this, considering that the Red Cow could only be brought as a group effort. Several people were needed to perform the various functions - the burning of the cow, the gathering of its ashes, and the drawing of the water. Some of aspects of the procedure needed to be prepared years in advance: the Mishna (Parah 3:2) tells us that the children who drew the water were born in special courtyards where there was no possibility of an unknown grave. They were raised there and never allowed to leave (so as to prevent accidental contact with a corpse or a grave) until it was time to draw the water, at which time they were transported to the wells on special wide-bodied oxen. We might expect that such people, who maintained a heightened state of purity their entire lives, would refuse to participate in the procedure involving the burning of the Red Cow. After all why should they become impure just to help others become pure? However, we never find that this objection was raised, rather, the people involved with the procedure were willing to become impure themselves to increase the purity of the community. 


We, too, sometimes have opportunities to help others advance spiritually while the act of helping them may stunt our spiritual growth. The laws connected with the Red Cow teach us to seize such opportunities and focus on helping the Jewish community as a whole.

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Sat, January 23 2021 10 Shevat 5781