Friday, June 14, 2013

Holy Cow!

Have you ever herd of the Red Cow?

In this week's parsha we learn of the mitzvah of the Parah Adumah [RedHeifer]. Rashi says that this mitzvah is known as the quintessential "chok". A “chok” is a mitzvah in which we don’t understand the reason.

As I write this, I wonder about the connection between the Red Heifer and the bulls who star in bullfights. The way the Matadors provoke the bulls to fight is by waving a red cloth at them, which is so terribly irritating to them that they get riled up and charge at the fighter. Something about their red ancestor? Perhaps not having been chosen as the unique red one? Its highly probable that there’s no connection at all.

Mooovin along, the mitzvah of Parah Adumah is, in fact, a tremendous paradox. The Parah Adumah was used to be me'taher people who were Tameh Meis. To purify those that have become impure through contact with a corpse. People who have the impurity of Tameh Meis have no way of achieving purity other than by means of the Parah Adumah. Yet, on the other hand, any person who had anything to do with the preparing or the carrying or the sprinkling of the Parah Adumah became ritually impure, himself. 

The paradox of the Parah Adumah, thus, is that it makes those who are impure, pure and those who are pure, impure.

Our Rabbis tell us that the verse in Koheles [7:23] "All this I tried to understand with my wisdom; I said I will figure it out, but it is still distant from me" refers to Shlomo stating that he understood the entire Torah, except for the chapter of Parah Adumah which remained elusive --despite all his inquiry.

The Medrash further states that G-d told Moshe, "To you I will explain the paradox of Parah Adumah, but to every other human being I will always hide its mystery." However the Medrash does say that in the Messianic Era, G-d will finally explain to us the mystery of Parah Adumah.

 G-d made a deliberate and conscious effort to keep the mystery of Parah Adumah hidden from us. Shlomo, with his unparalleled wisdom, should have been able to understand Parah Adumah. But G-d said, "I've got to keep this a secret. There is a reason. I will tell it to Klal Yisroel in the distant future. But for now, no one can understand Parah Adumah."

Why? Does G-d want to prove that He is smarter than us? Is this a game where G-d dangles something in front of us, teasing us with our inability to figure it out? 

Is G-d being a Matador and waving the Red Cow in front of us to provoke us?  

 The reason G-d hid the understanding of Parah Adumah from us, is to teach us a vital lesson. There are things in life that are just inexplicable. We must learn the lesson that things will happen in life that we will never be able to understand. We will come across things that will be terrible paradoxes, things that have apparently no rhyme and no reason.

What is this area of paradox that parallels Parah Adumah
It is the area of Tzadik v'ra lo and Rasha v'Tov lo.

 It’s the famous troublesome question of the ages:  
Why do bad things happen to good people, and vise versa?

The same way Parah Adumah is a paradox that makes absolutely no sense, there exists a paradox in life that we meet time and time and time again.

Logic would dictate just the reverse: A person is righteous, he is a noble Jew and unfortunately he suffers. Another person is wicked, he does everything that is forbidden and he is wealthy and prospers and has honor. Does this even make sense?!

G-d makes no errors. He runs the world with a plan. This is not illogical, it’s a paradox!

For some reason, that is the way that G-d made His world. We will have to deal with that issue and problem. 
So, G-d educated us in paradoxes. That education is the Parah Adumah.

This is a tremendous education. Today, we think of Parah Adumah as an obscure mitzvah. We learn about it in the Chumash. We don't really know what it is talking about.
But during the time of the Temple, the laws of Parah Adumah were extremely relevant. Invariably, one came into contact with dead people; one went to funerals; one became tameh. Then what? One could not eat Kodshim Kalim; one could not eat Ma'aser; one could not go to certain places in Jerusalem until one became Tahor.

So, Parah Adumah was certainly something that happened many times a year and was often a daily occurrence. Every single time, a Jew would be faced with the same paradox. He walks in tameh and walks out tahor while the Kohen would walk in tahor and walk out tameh. It does not seem to make sense, but at least the Jew would be exposed to and get accustomed to a paradox.

The Jew would learn that there are some things in this world that don't seem to make sense. That is why G-d hid the reason for Parah Adumah from us and it is also why in he future He will explain Parah Adumah to us.

 In the future we WILL understand all the paradoxes of life. The one about the Red Cow, and also the udder ones. 

But right now, G-d purposely keeps them a secret, in order to understand that we just CAN’T understand because we’re not supposed to understand it. 
That in itself supplies tremendous satisfaction and consolation.

 Have a great shabbos!