1. On this Shabbos, in addition to the regular Torah reading, we read the portion dealing with the Mitzvah of “Parah Adumah”. This was a completely red cow whose ashes were used to purify one who had come in contact with a dead person.
The Rambam in his Sefer HaMitzvos states (1) that the Mitzvah was to burn the Parah Adumah “so that the ashes would be ready for whomever might need it for purifying himself”.
One would obviously make use of the Parah Adumah only if 1) he has been in contact with a dead person, or 2) he desires to purify himself. Yet the Mitzvah here is not to wait until such a situation arises. Rather is the Beis Din — Jewish Court of Law — commanded to burn the Parah Adumah so that its ashes would always be ready for one who needs them.
Herein lies an interesting distinction between the Parah Adumah and other forms of correction administered by the Beis Din. In other cases, a person would first come to the Beis Din and then be told what to do for penance. In this case, though, we do not wait with burning the red cow until after he comes to Beis Din. The ashes must be prepared beforehand so that they are ready at all times for when they will be needed.
From this we can learn an important lesson in our service of Hashem.
Human nature is to always rationalize one’s actions, and regard oneself as blameless. One could therefore consider Teshuvah (usually translated “repentance”) as not applying to oneself. Knowledge of the Laws of Teshuvah, perhaps, might be useful at some future date in the eventuality that one might somehow sin. Nevertheless, we are told that Teshuvah must be done daily — as part of serving G-d in prayer.
“There is no man in the world so righteous that he does no sin.” (2) The Hebrew word used here for sin is ‘Chet’ — meaning a deficiency. While one may not be doing anything actually wrong, it is surely possible for him to be doing more that is right. There is, therefore, no man who is not deficient to some extent in his degree of attachment to Hashem. For this reason the Hebrew word “Teshuvah” does not really mean “repentance” — implying that some wrong has been done, but “returning”, for each person can surely come closer to his Creator.
Furthermore, we are told that each generation that does not rebuild the Beis HaMikdash is as guilty as the one which caused its destruction (3) for would they be worthy, the Beis HaMikdash would surely be rebuilt in their time.
Should one think that his actions make no difference, we are told that one must regard himself at any given moment as having his merits equal to his misdeeds (4) — or even more so, as the merits of the entire world being equal to its misdeeds— and the Mitzvah one is now about to perform can bring salvation to the entire world.
For these reasons, it is imperative for every person to do Teshuvah, and it must be done without delay. Just as the Parah Adumah was prepared in advance so that it could be used immediately when someone would come to correct his state of impurity, so must Teshuvah be ever-present in a person’s heart, ready to be done at once, as soon as one realizes that the present situation is one that requires it.
2. We all know that all Mitzvos must be done with Simcha — happiness. We do them happily because we know that through this we can achieve a bond with Hashem. It follows, then, that the Mitzvah of Teshuvah, too, must be done with Simcha. When a person does Teshuvah, he corrects the wrongs he had committed, thereby ensuring that his service to Hashem become more perfect. How much greater then must be his happiness when he does Teshuvah, since through this he achieves perfection in the fulfillment of all Torah and Mitzvos.
Motzaei Shabbos is the time when we bid farewell to the Shabbos Queen. In view of the above, we can understand that Teshuvah is not inappropriate at this time, since it is not a melancholy act but one of boundless joy. At this time, we can draw also from the joy of Purim to supplement and strengthen the Simcha we feel in doing Teshuvah, for the joy of Purim is also unlimited.
3. There is also an intrinsic similarity between Purim and Parah Adumah. Purim was a time when the Jewish People intensified their adherence of the Torah and Mitzvos to such a degree that it was regarded as the first time the Jewish people were considered completely devoted to practicing the Laws of the Torah since the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. (5) Similarly, Parah Adumah is called “The Chukah of the Torah” (6) (Chukah meaning a Mitzvah for which no logical reason is given). It was not merely the “Chukah of Parah Adumah” but rather the “Chukah” of the entire Torah. The lesson we derive from this is that through fulfilling the Mitzvah of “Parah Adumah”, approaching it as a “Chukah” (without seeking out the logic behind it) will lead one to fulfill the entire Torah in a manner of “Chukah”, in other words, performance of the Mitzvos will not be because of their rational reasons, but because they are commands of G-d, and means of establishing a bond with Him.
Thus we may consider the Torah on two levels:
1) Torah is on its own.
2) As Parah Adumah introduces added significance by encouraging fulfillment of Torah in a manner of “Chukah”, hence Parah Adumah is similar to Purim in that it introduced a greater degree of intensity in the practice and fulfillment of Torah.
4. In regard to the Parah Adumah we find an interesting point. The Sifri (a Midrashic note) states (7) that the first Parah Adumah could be prepared only by the Deputy Kohain Gadol — (high priest) Elozor, and not by the Kohain Gadol himself — Aharon. Why was it forbidden for Aharon as Kohain Gadol to prepare the Parah Adumah?
The question becomes stronger after referring to the Talmud (8) that discusses the people who were permitted to prepare the Parah Adumah in later generations. One opinion in the Talmud is that every other Parah Adumah must also be prepared exclusively by the Kohain Gadol. The other opinion is that any Kohain, even the Kohain Hedyot (ordinary priest), as well as the “Kohain Gadol”, may prepare it. Thus the question remains why the first Parah Adumah had to be prepared specifically by the Deputy Kohain Gadol, and could not be done by the Kohain Gadol at all?!
The Rogatchover Gaon explains this (9) in a profound manner. The Rambam states that the person preparing a future Parah Adumah, whether Kohain Gadol or Kohain Hedyot, must wear the four garments of the Kohain Hedyot and not the eight garments which were worn exclusively by the Kohain Gadol at other aspects of worship in the Beis HaMikdash. There were times when the Kohain Gadol also wore four garments, though these were not identical to the four garments of the Kohain Hedyot. Hence if the Kohain Gadol would prepare the Parah Adumah he would have to wear the four garments of a Kohain Hedyot and not his own four garments.
From this we see that although the Torah permits the Parah Adumah to be prepared even by a Kohain Gadol, nevertheless, he performs this with that aspect of Kohain Hedyot that remains with him even after he ascends to the level of Kohain Gadol. In other words, the Kohain Gadol possesses within himself two levels of Priesthood: one (newly acquired) as a Kohain Gadol, and the other (originally present) as a Kohain Hedyot. And his ability to prepare the Parah Adumah derives from that quality he retains as Kohain Hedyot.
All this could apply to all Kohanim Gedolim who were to serve in the future. It would not, however, apply to Aharon. All other Kohanim Gedolim would have to previously be an ordinary Kohain Hedyot before they could ascend to the level of Kohain Gadol.
Aharon, however, was appointed Kohain Gadol on his very first day in the priesthood. As related in this week’s Torah portion, only the performance of Divine service by Aharon as Kohain Gadol, was able to cause revelation of the “Shechinah” (Divine Presence).
Furthermore, that day, the first day that the Mishkan (sanctuary) stood, is compared in the Talmud (10) to the first day of creation. Just as on the day of creation all things were created at their fullest degree of development (Adam and Eve; for example, were fully developed as though they would have been twenty years old), so it was with Aharon when he began his service as Kohain Gadol. He did not have to first serve as a Kohain Hedyot and then become a Kohain Gadol, but immediately came to his fullest degree of development as a Kohain Gadol.
For this reason the first Parah adumah was not permitted to be done by Aharon himself. When a Kohain Gadol prepares a Parah Adumah he must, as mentioned above, wear the four garments of a Kohain Hedyot. But this is only when he had once been a Kohain Hedyot, because he then still retains within himself the quality of Kohain Hedyot, even after becoming Kohain Gadol.
Aharon, however, had never been a Kohain Hedyot and therefore did not possess the quality of Kohain Hedyot and could not wear a Kohain Hedyot’s garments. He was therefore unable to prepare the Parah Adumah.
5. The lesson to us from the above:
The Rambam writes (11) “The Jews will eventually repent, and they will immediately be redeemed”.
At first glance, since we are experiencing an extremely intense darkness of exile, how can the Rambam — a Halachic Law-code that contains clear-cut laws — tell us that the redemption will be immediate?
The redemption will have to be a complete transformation, as stated in the Haftorah of this Shabbos: “I will remove from you a heart of stone, and I give you a heart of flesh” — the heart is an organ on which life depends and it will be completely transformed, meaning that the redemption will be a complete one, with no exile following. How then, can the Rambam tell us that a complete transformation will come about immediately — a thing that has never yet happened?
But the above point teaches us that it has, in fact, already happened in the past. At one moment Aharon was a Levi, and Moshe was acting as the High Priest, and a moment later Moshe told Aharon: “Come close to the altar” (12) and perform the Divine Service — he immediately became a High Priest!
So, too, the redemption will be an immediate transformation. In Iggeres Hakodesh (13) it is explained that the general redemption (of all Jews) is connected with the personal redemption of each Jew, which is brought about through prayer and the prior giving of Tzedakah.
From the above it is understood that each and every Jew has the potential and is empowered to bring about the “immediate redemption”, from the present extreme to the opposite, from the lowest level to the highest, until a level is reached which will be higher even than extremes!
6. If this is true about oneself, despite the awareness one has of one’s own failings, how much more so regarding another Jew. Since one must view his fellow on the scale of merit, he must therefore consider it as being certainly within his fel must therefore consider it as being certainly within his fellow’s power and potential to bring about the redemption. And seeing that “Toras Emes” — the Torah of truth — demands that we regard others favorably, “with a good eye” (14), it is most certainly true. One has to “love the creatures and bring them close to Torah” (15). “Creatures” explains the Alter Rebbe in Tanya, means people so low that their only redeeming factor is that they are created by Hashem. Yet one has to love them with a true love as demanded by “Toras Emes” — the “Torah of Truth”. And this love should be so strong that one “brings them close to Torah” not only to Mitzvos, but also to Torah (study) which G-d calls His “Hidden Treasure”. (16)
(As can also be seen that when the angels did not want the Torah, the “Hidden Treasure” to be given to “flesh and blood”, they did not complain about the Mitzvos being given, but rather about the Torah — meaning the study of G-d’s Wisdom.)
If a person starts looking for an intellectual explanation of this approach (teaching even Torah to lowly “creatures”), he should be told that it has already happened in the past; Hashem so acted towards him at “Matan Torah” (the giving of the Torah).
Prior to Matan Torah there was a Divine decree (“gezerah” in its literal meaning of cutting off — as explained by the Previous Rebbe), that “the upper beings cannot come down, (to the world) and the lower beings cannot ascend (17) (to the higher worlds). In other words, the “upper” (spiritual) and “lower” (material) were two completely separate entities. At Matan Torah “Hashem came down on Mount Sinai”, and became “I am your G-d” (18) meaning your strength and vitality (of even the lowest part of the body).
And since Hashem so acted towards him, it is understood that he, too, should act this way towards every other Jew, that he should busy himself even with the “creatures” and bring them close to “Torah”.
7. This provides added depth to the duty of bringing close to the Torah all Jews, even those concerning whom the “Torah of Truth” says that they are merely “creatures”. It must be in a manner of “love the creatures”, i.e., founded on the concept of “Ahavas Yisrael”, which is one with Ahavas Hashem — love of G-d, and Ahavas HaTorah — love of the Torah.
From Ahavas Yisrael (which elevates one to a point above all differentiation of various levels), one comes to Chinuch Torah education, Torah — study (for all), Tefillin, Mezuzah, Tzedakah, Bayis Molei Seforim (filling the home with Jewish books) — the idea of “Yavneh and its Sages” and also into the three pillars on which the entire House of Israel rests, which are especially connected with “The House of Jacob — these are the women” — Kosher food and drink, preceded already on Erev Shabbos, by Neros Shabbos Kodesh, and also Taharas Hamishpachah (Family Purity).
And we will go to meet Mashiach Tzidkeinu together with those one has brought close.
So should it come about — that through increasing and intensifying all these Mitzvos, starting with encouraging young boys and girls to add in quality as well as in quantity in their Torah learning, and also through their instituting their own free-loan funds — that we shall go really soon to meet our Saintly Mashiach, in a manner of “a great gathering will return here”, and in a manner of “kings will be your foster fathers and queens your nursing mothers”. (19)
8. It is now an appropriate time to encourage the fulfillment of a lesson derived from Purim. Although the Megillas Esther clearly defines the limits of the holiday of Purim and says that it cannot be extended past the 15th of the month of Adar (20), this, however, applies only to the reading of the Megillah, but is not relevant to the other concepts of Purim. Hence, although we find ourselves in the second half of the month, we may still derive lessons from other aspects of Purim. This can also be seen from the following: 1) The Talmud says (21) that if a Jew has a litigation with a gentile, he should try to postpone it until the month of Adar, for then the “Mazal” of the Jewish people is on the ascendant. It specifies the (entire) “Month of Adar” without any distinction between its first half (before the 15th) or its second half. 2) There is a custom that weddings are not held in the latter half of a month (since the moon — to which the Jews are compared — starts diminishing after the 15th day. Some months however, are excluded — each for its specific reason). However, w Adar is (also) excluded. The joy of Purim permeates the entire month and weddings may therefore take place. As we find in the Megillah that Adar “is the month which was transformed from sadness to gladness” (22) implying the entire month.
There is a wonderful lesson to be derived from the story of Purim.
All the Jews at that time were greatly influenced by Mordechai. Even Haman (whom he mentioned that the Jews are a people scattered among the other nations) realized his influence and called the Jews “Mordechai’s people” (23). Just like Mordechai who “did not bow down” (24) they, too, did not even think of surrendering to Haman’s decree or bowing down to the idols, although they thereby endangered their lives.
Another instance: On Esther’s request, Mordechai gathered together all the Jews to fast on Esther’s behalf. Later all the Jews throughout the world accepted upon themselves to observe the holiday of Purim.
Thus we see the influence that Mordechai exerted on his own people. But it was not limited to his own people. He was also very influential in the higher echelons of society — in the government circles, too. He became the “Viceroy” — second to the king himself.
He realized that it had been through his “sitting at the gate of the king” (25), that he had been able to save the entire Jewish nation. His obvious course of action, after saving his people, should have been to pursue his career as Chief Minister to the king who ruled the entire world, enabling him to ease the burden of Jews around the world. Yet we find instead the very opposite. Resigning his exalted position, thereby relinquishing the possibility of helping his fellow Jews, he emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in order to be able to study Torah uninterruptedly!
9. Herein lies a wonderful lesson:
Every Jew is a soldier in the army of Hashem. A soldier must disregard his personal feelings and pleasures and completely subjugate himself to his commander. Although in other fields the soldier may far surpass his commander, nevertheless, a feeling of superiority on the part of the soldier resulting in his disobeying a military command could be disastrous. Even if the command sounds to him unreasonable, even preposterous, his feelings must be one of “Naaseh v’Nishma” (26) (we will first do the Mitzvos then we will understand” — as the Jews told Moshe at Mount Sinai). After obeying, he later approaches his commander and requests clarification of the command. The command itself, though, must be fulfilled in its entirety.
The above applies even to a commander in this world. How much more so, then, is it relevant to a command of the “King of Kings” who tells us: “Do not deviate from the command right or left”. (27) The Jew’s obedience and subservience to the King is to such an extent that (as our Sages explain (28) the command “Do not deviate”) even if a Sage will tell you that your right side is in truth your left and vice versa, you are still to obey!
When a Jew finds himself (through Divine Providence) in an influential position as a businessman or communal leader, he should realize that as long as there is an order from the (Previous) Rebbe to continue his activities he must act accordingly. If it requires devoting less time to Torah study, he has no choice but to obey. Obviously, though, he should not derive pleasure from his “vacation” from Torah study, but rather pursue his activities as a soldier who is fulfilling his commander’s decree. While still occupied in his work, he should be thirsting impatiently for the moment he will be able to continue his Torah study. When, then, he receives an explicit instruction that his task is now completed, he should jump at the opportunity to resume his Torah study with increased diligence. Although he may be a successful businessman or communal leader (and therefore must continue his services with ever-increasing vigor), he must also possess a constant burning desire to learn Torah. He will then take advantage of every free moment (however few) to study, and he will do so with even greater enthusiasm and diligence than one who studies the Torah continuously.
10. In simple practical terms: Each of us should intensify his Torah study with ever-increasing vigor and strength, utilizing every free moment to learn Torah.
This applies to youngsters, too. Young girls are also included as they also have an obligation to learn Torah. Although women are not obliged to study the entire Torah, nevertheless, they must know the laws relating to all the negative commandments, and those positive Mitzvos which are not limited to a fixed time. This includes a vast portion of the Torah, and (as has been mentioned on many occasions) if only men would be sufficiently well-versed in all the laws that women are obliged to know! Both Purim and Pesach are also pertinent to women as “they too were in the miracle”. (29) Furthermore, regarding the Exodus from Egypt, our Sages say, (30) “In merit of the virtuous women were our fathers redeemed from Egypt”. So, too, Purim, where we see that although Mordechai played a major role in the miracle, the Megillah is nevertheless called not Megillas Mordechai, or Mordechai veEsther, but rather Megillas Esther.
Children should be encouraged to increase their Torah study. They should also be encouraged to get. involved in the fulfillment of Mitzvos and, as mentioned previously, to start free-loan associations among themselves. This training will then become their “second nature” and their lives will become imbued and permeated with the fulfillment of Torah and Mitzvos.
These (Torah and Mitzvos) will be the “vessels” through which we will “receive” the (revelation of) Mashiach as it says, (31), “Zion will be redeemed through judgment (Torah) and those that return through Tzedakah” (which includes Gemilus Chassadim — giving free loans to those that need them).
1. Mitzvas Assai no. 113.
2. Koheles 7:20.
3. Talmud Yerushalmi Yuma 1:1.
4. Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4.
5. Shabbos 88a.
6. Chukas 19:2.
7. Chukas 12:3.
8. Yuma 42b.
9. Tzofnas panayach on Torah,Chukas19:3.
10. Megillah 10b.
11. Hilchos Teshuva.7:5.
12. Shemini 9:7.
13. Ch. 4.
14. Avos 1:6.
15. Avos 1:12.
16. Shabbos 88b.
17. Midrash Shmos Rabba 12:3.
18. Yisro 20:2.
19. Yeshaya 49:23.
20. Megillas Esther 9:27.
21. Taanis 29b.
22. Megillas Esther 9:22.
23. Ibid. 3:6.
24. Ibid. 3:2.
25. Ibid. 2:21.
26. Mishpatim 24:7.
27. Shoftim 17:11.
28. Midrash Sifri and Rashi on this verse
29. Megillah 4a.
30. Soteh 11b.
31. Yeshaya 1:27.