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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Chukat

Purity And The Para Aduma

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It is an enigma that defies logic. Other than Moshe – who got the word directly from Hashem – no one could figure it out, not even Shlomo HaMelech, by tradition the wisest of men. It is the puzzling paradox of the Para Aduma.

You take a red cow, you kill it, you mix its ashes with a few ingredients, you sprinkle it on those who came into contact with a corpse and walla! – they’re now Tahor, pure.

How can a dead animal, something which is inherently tamei, impure - and even makes its handler impure - cause someone else to become spiritually pristine?! It makes no sense! Great minds have pondered this question for millennia, and shrugged their shoulders with bewilderment.

But today, I think I finally figured it out.

As I write this, I have just returned from the homes of the Ariel and Mark families. Hallel Yaffa Ariel, a gifted, musical 13-year-old girl, was brutally murdered in her bed in Kiryat Arba by a 17-year Palestinian monster. "Not murdered," corrected her mother Rena, "slaughtered, stabbed 9 times, in the face, chest and heart as she slept in her bed!"

Michael (Miki) Mark of Otniel, father of 10 and charismatic educator, was killed near his home by Palestinian terrorists on erev Shabbat, in a drive-by shooting that also severely injured several of his family members.

When we walked into the Ariel shiva, Rena stood up and greeted us: "Celebrate life!" she said. "Hallel danced, she loved life; in her memory, bring life to the Jewish people, add life to our great country Israel, live life to the fullest!"

And in the Mark home, Miki’s beautiful daughter Orit, all of 15-years old, had a message for us as well: "Be strong! My father was strong; he never gave up or gave in. Now all of us – you and me – must stay strong and never let the murderers win! "

As I listened to these courageous women speak, I now understood the power, the secret of the Para Aduma: From the gross impurity of the animalistic terrorists, there emerges the pure and holy neshamot of their victims. A holiness and purity that is angelic, G-d – like, that contains within it the ability to purify a whole nation, to inject spirit and strength into all who come into contact with them. They are the Kohen! They have been touched by death, but now have the power to give life.

May these Kedoshim constitute the Para Aduma, the precursor and prerequisite for the building of the Bet HaMikdash, and may they M'taher the Jewish nation in preparation for the Geula Shlema.




Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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