Innocent Arguments – Korach 5777

Innocent Arguments

Korach 5777

Have you ever looked back at a raging argument and tried to understand how it all began? Have you ever had the opportunity to step outside of a controversy and look at it in a dispassionate light?

 

Often times, if we are lucky enough to do so, we discover that the seed that was sown at the outset of this Titanic sized storm, was not only insignificant but possibly also innocent, but once the match has been struck the entire edifice is alight.

 

The Mishna’s definition of a Machlokes is that of Korach and his followers as detailed in this week’s Sedra. {It is interesting to note that the Mishna describes it as the ‘Machlokes of Korach and his followers’ and not as the ‘Machlokes of Korach and Moshe’.} We all know how it ended but how did it start? The flash point was ostensibly to oust Aaron as the Kohen Gadol, but the underlying issue was with Moshe’s authority. Therefore, Korach began with a Halachic question: if a room is filled with Sifrei Torah, each one containing 275 chapters, including the single one of the Shema, do we still need a Mezuzah with a but one single chapter on the doorpost?

 

Leaving aside the motive, on the face of it, the basis of the question seems innocent enough. {The motive, explain our commentators, was that Korach really believed that Moshe would say that no it did not need a Mezuzah, thus allowing him to question why the Community of Israel needed an extra Leader if they were all individually filled with Torah?} How did this innocent, and possibly quite valid Halachic question, explode into such a conflagration that ended with a miraculous opening of the earth and Divinely sent plague that killed thousands?

 

Korach’s mistake, and one that he was simply unable or obstinately unwilling to step back from, was confusing quality over quantity; thinking that he could drown out the truth with an avalanche of innuendos and well-argued polemics. So much within Halacha and Judaism is pin point specific, and so it should be, for Truth walks a very finely balanced line; there is no such thing as something being 99% true, it either is or it isn’t. Of course there is room for manoeuvre, Judaism was the inventor of compromise and case specific application, but those must work within the boundaries of the Law. If there is a Mitzvah to place a Mezuzah on the doorpost to a room then it doesn’t help if the room is filled with holy books, you still haven’t fulfilled your obligation to put one of the doorpost. That’s akin to saying that because someone has given so much to charity he doesn’t need to pay taxes. Or because I buy my wife presents so often, I don’t actually need to tell her that I love her! Extra credits are nice, but they don’t cancel out actual obligations.

 

A little bit of what is correct weighs far more than a ton of useless, even if well meant, platitudes.

 

Unfortunately it is a trap that we are all prone to; we cover up our deficiencies by drowning them with ‘good deeds’, when what might just be needed is one simple act. And such traps are so much harder to escape from, precisely because they are tied up with good. When one is categorically wrong it is easier, if humbling, to be able to ‘fess up. But when the mistake is wrapped up within the legitimacy of truth, albeit twisted, then it is so much harder to correct.

 

Korach’s argument is chosen by the Mishna as the prime example of a Machlokes specifically because it started so innocently. We all know that an evil person can create rift and poison an entire community, but how often do we fall into the innocent trap? It is specifically such an argument that the Mishna warns us about, because it is so easy to start but incredibly hard to end.

 

May Hashem grant us all the humility and intelligence to avoid these arguments,

 

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom

 

Rabbi Dovid 

Climbing Complacency

Climbing Complacency

Shelach-Lecha 5777

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt is rumoured to have said “whether you say you can or you can’t, you are right”.  So much in our world is dependent on mind-set and attitude. Capability and strength have a massive role to play, but a negative manner can cancel all of our raw talent in one fell swoop. And no one is immune.

 

The above, I believe, answers a difficult question from this week’s Sedra. Even before the spies set out on their disastrous mission Moshe changes Hoshea’s name to Yehoshua ‘in order to save him from the evil design of the spies’. Yet at this point those 12 men were all honest and upright religious leaders of the Jewish Nation. Similarly, as soon as they enter into the land, Calev the only other spy not to get caught up in their hysteria, detours to Hebron in order to pray at the Cave of Machpela that he too should not be part of their nefarious plan. Again, at this point Calev’s fellow spies were not yet speaking negatively about the Land of Israel. Nothing bad had happened yet, so why did Yehosua and Calev need the extra protection?

 

I would like to suggest that the root of their negative report about the Land, was sown at the very outset of their journey. This wasn’t a conscious decision, and at the start they were indeed all righteous men, worthy of that name, but they looked at the task ahead of the Jewish Nation and they gave up.

 

Moshe saw this defeat in their eyes and blessed his student Yehoshua that he shouldn’t be similarly affected, Calev recognized it as well and prayed for assistance. Defeatism is a most contagious disease and is not easily conquered. Once infected it runs rampant through an entire group and can destroy hopes and aspirations.

 

At this point I have to thank a group of 100 Frum bike riders from North Manchester for the inspiration for the above Torah thought and lesson. Once a year I join them as they remove their long black coats, stop eating cholent (albeit only for one Shabbat) and creak their legs over the crossbars of the most eclectic collection of bikes you have ever seen, most of which are old, heavy and fit for the scrap heap. Last year they were raising money for a special needs school and this year it is for a fertility charity, both here in Manchester. Last night we were given the route for the ride this Sunday, and a great big groan went up, for it is going to be hard. Never mind the distance of 100k, which is about 95k more than they have ridden since last year’s ride, it is the climbing involved. For this year, it starts North of Preston in the Forest of Bowland and includes over 1500 metres of climbing. To put that in perspective, on our hardest day in Israel, when we were a confident and fit group of riders all on full carbon fibre bikes with the latest in cycling technology, we only climbed 1300 metres! So this group of overweight riders, who are cycling on nothing more than enthusiasm alone started to groan.

 

I watched the rapidly and exponentially growing sense of defeat and was more than slightly alarmed, and being the only Rabbi on the group (yes, even when I ride with the Frummies of North Manc, I am still the only Rabbi!!), I stepped in and shared the above thought. I reminded them that if the couples whom we are trying to help looked at the difficult road ahead of them with the same defeatism they would never get married in the first place. If they knew that there were going to have months and years of anxiety, tears and frustration as their hopes for children were dashed month after month, then they would most definitely give up even before they began. And who could blame them.

 

The same is true of our life journey in general. If we saw all of our ups and downs, all of our difficulties and misfortunes before we set out on our life, then we could be forgiven for giving up. Yet, the Almighty tells us to just take the first step. Don’t be complacent, don’t pretend for a moment that it’s going to be a walk in the park, but don’t get caught up in the climb coming your way. At times we will need the extra help such as our Moshe blessing his student or Calev praying and seeking out the protection of our ancestors, but don’t give up before you’ve taken the first step.

 

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom

 

Rabbi Dovid

 

p.s. the tone on the rider’s WhatsApp group has taken a 180 degree turn and now they are so fired up that I am probably going to be the last one at the top of that mountain!

Free Food – Beha’alosecha and the unique complaint

Free Food

The Unique Complaint of Beha’alosecha

 

Rabbi Yisroel Ruzhin, was one of the pre-eminent Chassidic Rebbes of Ukraine and ran a Court that was the envy of Tsar Nicholas. Amongst his contemporaries, he was known as ‘Der Heliger’ – ‘The Holy One’ and is still regarded today as one of the leading lights of the Chassidic world and pre-war Europe, including by Rabbi Shimson Hirsch, the architype Modern-Orthodox intellectual.  At his instigation, the Tifferet Yisrael Shul, which received praise and funding from Kaiser Wilhelm, was built in the Old City of Jerusalem.

 

After he passed away his 6 sons all wanted to inherit his Tefillin, which were a much-treasured family heirloom going back to the times of the Baal Shem Tov, and they decided to make a silent auction. Before looking at their respective ‘bids’, the oldest son suggested that actually they should follow the time honoured Jewish custom and have a Gorel – a lottery. After the 5th son, Reb Dovid Moshe’s name was pulled out of the hat, they then (out of curiosity) looked at their ‘silent bids’. Unsurprisingly they saw, that Reb Dovid Moshe had bid: ‘everything I have’!

 

After my father told me that story this morning, I realised how appropriate it is for my weekly message. And no, its nothing to do with politics, although the analogies are simple to see.

 

Whether it is the statement in Ethics of the Fathers, ‘according to the pain is the reward’, or the old English saying, ‘the harder I practice, the luckier I get’; it is an unavoidable truth that we only get what we work for. {Let’s leave alone the minority whom we all complain about, for in truth everything washes out in the end – especially when we believe in an after-life!}

 

This is a theme that runs through our Sedra this week and is highlighted in particular when the Israelites complain about their food and wellbeing. Only this time the complaint leads to Moshe pretty much giving much and asking Hashem to take his life. (See Chief Rabbi Sacks’ article)

 

The uniqueness of this complaint was that we referenced all the good food that we ate in Egypt, ‘for free’. The Manna from Heaven and the water from Miriam’s Well were the perfect food, absolute nutrition and uniquely suitable for everyone, but it came with a price. The food in Egypt was accompanied by slavery, but there was no real price to it; we were being fed the same way that a farmer feeds his plough horse. In the desert however, Hashem was feeding us as a mother feeds her children; its free but it comes with a price. That price has no sticker or label on stating how much it costs, but it has a value that is beyond rubies; our commitment to our parents.

 

Moshe felt so much despair not at our complaint about food per se, but the fact that we weren’t committed to the cause. We weren’t prepared to put our effort into this relationship; we wanted it served to us on a silver platter. And that is what caused him to complain so bitterly to Hashem. Reb Dovid Moshe deserved his father’s Tefillin not because he was any better than his siblings, but because he understood that in order to inherit such a precious possession he had to be willing to give everything for them. These Tefillin had no financial worth, it was their intrinsic value of what they represented; a commitment to a way of life.

 

What price are we willing to pay to ensure that our children’s children will inherit our faith?

A Buddhist’s Holy One Liner – Kedoshim 5777

A Buddhist’s Holy One Liner

Acharei- Kedoshim 5777

A chance encounter with a Buddhist earlier on today caused me to quickly analyse a verse from this week’s Sedra. He asked me for one sentence that could encapsulate Judaism, what is my one-liner as a Rabbi? This was at the end of a meeting, and I had not known up to that point what his religious or spiritual affiliation was, and I only had 60 seconds; I had been catapulted into ‘Just a Minute’!

The first verse that came to mind was the start of the Sedra: קדשים תהיו – you should be holy. He said I like it, it fits in with my philosophy. But I stopped him and said that actually it was the continuation of the verse that really spoke to me – ‘for I Hashem am holy”! Now that throws me; how is our holiness a reflection of Hashem’s? Why indeed is G-d’s holiness a valid reason for us to do likewise?

Now he was intrigued.

I explained that the word קדש – holy, also means to sanctify, to consecrate something, to set it aside. And that is my one-liner, for when G-d is set aside, when He/She/Whatever is sanctified and holy, it is not by virtue of being better than those around; G-d’s holiness is absolutely self-dependant. We don’t play Top-Trumps with G-d for there is nothing to compare Him to.

And that is the instruction at the start of the Sedra – be Holy by your own standards. You are not going to be judged in comparison with anyone else.

That of course works both ways; we can’t pat ourselves on the back when we (more often that not, erroneously) think that we are holier/frummer than someone else, but neither should we knock ourselves down when we think that we aren’t as good as them.

In the words of Rabbi Meir of Premishlan: “I’m not worried that when I get to heaven that they are going to ask me why I wasn’t as good as Moses was, but rather I’m petrified that they are going to ask me why I wasn’t as good a Meir could have been.”

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dovid

p.s. now you know why I never enter ‘Just a Minute’; too much repetition, far too much deviation, and G-d in heaven ‘just’ one minute!!

Freg a Sha’aloh

“Freg a Sha’aloh”

Lessons in prejudging from one little letter.

Tazria Metzora 5777

“freg a sha’aloh – is ez treif” – ask a question, and its treif. Thus have Anglo Jewry always believed, but what is the basis for that?

 

We could in fact argue that actually the opposite is true, and indeed the Talmud tells us that “koach d’hitayroh odif” – the power to permit something is greater. In other words, anyone can say that something is treif or forbidden, but it takes a knowledgeable authority to permit it and declare it Kosher etc. So freg a sha’aloh, you never know, it may yet turn out to be Kosher!

 

I mention this because of one little letter in this week’s Sedra. “When you will come to the Land……and the owner of the house will say to the Kohen, ‘there appears to me to be something like a Tzara’as lesion in my house.’ – כנגע נראה לי בבית” (Vayikra 14:34-35.) It is the ‘something like’, in Hebrew it’s the prefix ‘kaf’, that interests me.

 

The owner of the house, even if he were to be the most learned Rabbi or Prophet was not entitled to declare his house impure. Instead he had to call in the expert and get an official diagnosis; he had to freg a sha’aloh!

 

The reason for this is two-fold: 1) no one should ever be that quick to condemn themselves – or indeed anyone, leave it to the unconnected, third party, expert. 2) even if you were sure of the matter, and indeed you turned out to be correct, if you told the Kohen that you had a Tzara’as lesion in your house, rather than ‘something like a lesion’, you were in effect asking him to merely ‘rubber stamp’ your opinion!

 

I see here a powerful lesson for each and every one of us. Too often we follow the adage; if it quacks like a duck, if it waddles like a duck, if it looks like a duck – it’s a duck. It looks like someone has Tzara’as, it smells like they have been struck by Heaven – they must therefore be guilty.

 

We are therefore taught that even when we see it on ourselves (how much more so on someone else, when we definitely do not know all the facts), we are not allowed to pre-judge. Call in the expert and wait – you never know, it might not be Treif.

 

Oh, and don’t just go through the motions to get the expert/Kohen/Rabbi to confirm your ‘suspicions’ about the other person – wait for them to declare. This isn’t an exercise in proving you right, it’s a journey to discover the truth and to avoid declaring something, or even worse, someone Treif.

 

Wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Dovid

History Avoidance – Shemini, Post Pesach 5777

History Avoidance

Listening to the radio on Thursday I heard Nigel Farage declare that he would not be standing as an MP in the forthcoming general elections. What was interesting, were the phone calls that followed, with a number of his ‘Chassidim’ (although, he might use a different term!!) exhorting him to reconsider. Their contention was: this is what you are needed for, this is your calling.

 

Not to draw parallels, but it did remind me of a conversation, recounted by Rashi, between Moshe and Aaron at the dedication of the Tabernacle in the opening verses of this week’s Sedra.

 

Having served as the Kohen Gadol for seven days of installation, Moshe now called Aaron forward to begin the actual Service in the Dedication ceremony and take his dutiful role as the permanent Kohen Gadol. But Aaron held back, he felt that he was not worthy of the position, primarily due to his involvement with the Golden Calf. Moshe responds and says: ‘Why are you embarrassed? You were chosen for this role’ – לכך נבחרת.

 

We have just celebrated Pesach, when in essence we became the ‘Chosen Nation’.  It is important to stress at this point, that this term does not denote a negative aspect about other nations, but rather an acceptance of a responsibility for our nation. It’s not about them, it’s about us.

 

The order of the Hagaddah follows the same route; first we mention that we were slaves, then it describes our origins as idol worshippers. On a night when we are celebrating our freedom, our birth as a nation, why do we make any mention at all of our ‘shady past’?! Sweep it under the carpet and move on. Celebrate the power of freedom and the heights of spirituality, not the lows of slavery and paganism.

 

But the message of last week’s Hagaddah and this week’s Sedra is that there is no avoiding our destiny and stepping off our chosen path of responsibility. We cannot claim unworthiness because of any past history. We can pretend, we can try to hide in the shadows, but if this is our route in life then the only person we are in fact hiding from is ourselves. In the words of my father: ‘you are only fooling yourself – and anybody can fool a fool’!!

 

It was true of Aaron, it was true of our Nation and it is true for each and every one of us.

PhotoBombs, Yellow Cars and Streaks of Red

PhotoBombs, Yellow Cars and Streaks of Red

Shabbat Hagadol 5777

It started back in 2015 when a tourist complained. It escalated this January with vandalism. Then this week 100 protectors took to the streets in support.

 

All over a yellow car.

 

The offender, a car painted an alluring yellow, was accused of ruining the photo-shoots of tourists who had travelled for miles to see the picturesque village of Bidbury, home to the 14th century Cotswold cottages on Arlington Row.

 

The problem was that the owner, Mr Maddox, lived in the cottage and had simply parked his car outside his own home.

 

The tourists complained, vandals keyed the car and smashed the windows writing it off!

 

In support and solidarity, 100 owners of yellow cars (in all shapes, sizes and shades, from a Mini to a Lamborghini) processed through the village and Vauxhall have renamed that shade of paint to ‘Maddox Yellow’!

 

(Unfortunately, the 84 year old widower, has since given in to the vandals and replaced his car with a non-descript grey one!)

 

Pesach gets its name because Hashem passed-over our houses during the plague of the first-born. To ensure our protection we were commanded to paint the doorposts of our houses in red! We ruined the picturesque beauty of ancient Egypt with our splash of incongruous colour. But that was something that we had been doing for quite some time; standing out from the crowd. The Talmud tells us that we refused to change our dress, names or language throughout the entire two centuries we were in Egypt – including during the century of servitude and oppression.

 

Chief Rabbi Sacks summed it up brilliantly when he said (I believe it was just after the terrorist attack on 7-7) “Jews have always learnt to integrate but not assimilate”.

 

If Pesach teaches us one thing it is that our freedom cannot be bought by fading into the background and ignoring our heritage and customs. It is the Chag that raises Minhagim (ancient and new, authentic and bizarre) to a whole new level, and teaches us that what has given us the strength to survive is by respecting our surroundings, but not being drowned and suffocated by them.

 

Wishing you all a Chag Kasher v’Sameach,

 

Rabbi Dovid

Sacrifices – NOT!! – Vayikra 5777

Sacrifices – NOT!!

 

At some point a wordsmith better than I, will coin a more appropriate word to translate the Hebrew term Korban. The main focus of the entire book of Vayikra is purity and our personal relationship with the Divine, expressed in the minutiae of the Temple Service which of course revolved around the Korbanot.

 

The English word used is ‘sacrifice’.

 

This connotes giving something up and in the context of the Temple service, seems to imply that we are giving up the animal’s life!

 

I’ve sinned – time to slit an animals throat and move on with my life with clean hands!

I’ve been cured from a life-threatening illness – time to sprinkle some blood on the altar as thanks!

I brought a new life into this world – time to take an animal’s life in appreciation!

It’s Shabbat, it’s Rosh Chodesh, it’s Yom Tov – let’s bring an extra sacrifice.

 

Not exactly a moral or ethical act.

 

Can the Nation that gave us the very first moral code, the revolutionary Mitzvah of ‘Tzaar Ba’alei Chaim (not hurting our animals), that forbade hunting for pleasure, that insists on feeding our pets before our children etc etc etc, can that Nation and Divine Code really insist on sacrificing an animal’s life on the Altar of repentance, remembrance and thanks?

 

But is it truly about sacrificing?

 

For that matter, is anything within Judaism about sacrificing?

 

Do we sacrifice our taste-buds and appetite by adhering to Kashrut?

Do we sacrifice our sartorial desires and fashion sense by adhering to a dress-code?

Do we sacrifice our sexuality by adhering to family purity?

Do we sacrifice our free time by going to Shul?

 

The list goes one. In fact it is essentially 613 lines long!

 

A Korban is not a sacrifice. The Hebrew word Korban has its roots in k-r-v, to come close.

 

The whole point of Judaism, every positive Mitzvah and each negative Aveirah are about bridging the gap between the infinite Divine and the finite human being.

 

It’s not for nothing that the instruction to build the Tabernacle was prefaced by the Mitzvah of Shabbat, which more than any other Mitzvah reminds us that there is a Divine Creator to this world and that our every action must be in sync with His and aim to bring us both closer to each other.

 

The mechanics of how it works is the study of a lifetime, but the main point is that we were not put on this world to sacrifice ourselves, our happiness or our animals for G-d. We are put here to get closer and to be involved with the Cosmic plan of creation. If you think that you can just slit an animal’s throat and be atoned, sprinkle its blood and be done with expressing your thanks, then you have done nothing more than take an animal’s life – which is basically murder! You’ve not sacrificed an animal – you’ve sacrificed your moral code, your sacrificed your very essence of what it means to be a human being!

 

 

 

 

Vayakhel-Pekudei, #HASHTAGS and the Westminster Attack

#HASHTAGS!!

POST WESTMINSTER ATTACK

 

We had just finished saying a Psalm and a special Refuah Shleima for those injured in the Westminster attack when my phone pinged telling me that the death toll had risen to three. With that message came the now ubiquitous sign of the times: #PrayForLondon was trending on social media!

 

There are as ever those who criticise such hashtags and question their value, but I wonder whether they are in fact missing the point. We live in such a cosmopolitan society and with the ever-increasing march of technology the world has simultaneously become much smaller and paradoxically ever larger. We are instantly connected to events transpiring half-way across the globe whilst having less and less real face time with those living within our own group. The mobile phone, the ultimate symbol of connectivity and communication, is now the biggest cause of disconnect. It’s a sign of the times, but the least commonly used feature on the mobile is now the actual call button!

 

A main strap-line for ShabbatUK was ‘disconnect to reconnect’, as we were all told to put away our mobile phones (and all other electronical devices!), to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the real world. But whilst the Mitzvah of Shabbat is the first paragraph of the week’s Sedra, it is not where I draw inspiration from this week, but rather from the names of the double Sedra themselves: Vayakhel and Pekudei.

 

Vayakhel means to gather together. This was the day after the original Yom Kippur when Moshe gathered the entire Jewish Nation together as one group in order to give us the commandment to build the Mishkan (which was prefaced by the Mitzvah of Shabbat to remind us that even the building of the ‘Home for Hashem’ did not override Shabbat).

 

Pekudei means to count, and this was the obligation to count each individual donation given to the building fund.

 

These two words, thrown together as a double Sedra are seemingly contradictory; to gather everyone together as one large mass and to count them individually! But that is precisely the message and entire ethos of the Torah and Judaism. We are our strongest when we are united as one, and that combined strength comes specifically from our own individual strength. It’s not just the ‘sum of its parts is greater than the whole’, it’s that there is no whole without the individual parts. When the farmer took his Ma’aser – the annual tithe, he couldn’t just take one tenth of his flock from the herd, but was obligated to count each animal individually and to set aside every tenth one that went by. It’s a central line in the Unesaneh Tokef prayer from Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur; that although we are gathered in Shul as one large Minyan, nevertheless we are all passing under the Almighty’s staff individually to get judged.

 

We ride on the flow of the communal current, but we must all swim ourselves.

 

In an age when we can with minimum effort be part of a global crowd, when with one click of a button we can join an international movement, it’s all too easy for us to think that we have now fulfilled our duty. “I’ve signed up. I’m on the inside.” I see the hashtag as a reminder that we can’t just ‘click to like’, but we must do our individual bit as well. Be part of the crowd, but play your part within that crowd.

As I write this message, pictures are coming in of the vigil held in Central London and the masses gathered there. A show of unity and defiance. A mark of respect and courage. Everyone there was and is part of the ‘community of strength’ but they also had to each individually turn up and play their individual part.

 

May the Almighty heal all those injured in the attack and grant comfort to those bereft of loved ones and shelter the souls of those so cruelly murdered.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Dovid

Holy Cows – Ki Sisa & Parah 5777

It’s a double bovine week, with the perplexing sin of the Golden Calf in the regular Sedra and then the special Leighning of the Red Heifer in preparation for Pesach. There is no logical connection between these two Torah readings, and it is just how the calendar falls this year. However, as with everything in our lives, especially the fundamentals such as the Torah readings, nothing happens by chance.

 

The sin of the Golden Calf came about when the Israelites, under the instigation of the Erev Rav (the mixed multitude who joined them as they were leaving Egypt) and with the help of some trickery by the Angel of Death, were convinced that Moshe had died on Mount Sinai and that they were now leaderless. More frightening than that, there was now no-one who could speak for them to Hashem, they had lost their all-important intermediary between mankind and the Almighty.

 

The Golden Calf was their (entirely mistaken and egregious) way of creating that new intermediary. They wanted something tangible that they could associate and identify with. Having an entirely spiritual G-d was something new to them, especially after their historical association with the pagan Canaanites and their recent Egyptian overlords.

 

This was obviously the antithesis of the revelation at Mount Sinai and was a sin of enormous magnitude, but in a certain manner it was predictable. The Israelites had been thrown headfirst into a crash-course in monotheism and spirituality. It was only a 7 week journey from Egypt to Sinai, and now less than 6 weeks after Sinai, the one man who had led them out of the multi-deity and physical atmosphere of Egypt was gone. They were lead to believe that he was dead. Left bewildered they decided to throw it all away.

 

Compare that, if you will, with the mystical commandment of the Red Heifer. A person becomes contaminated through contact with a dead body, nothing has physically changed but they are now no longer allowed to go to the Temple.

* Ironically, the Tabernacle and then the Temple were only built after the sin of the Golden Calf when G-d saw that we needed a physical place where we could identify with him!

In order to rectify the situation and become pure, one needed to be sprinkled with the ashes of a Red Heifer. This is defined by the Torah as a Chok – a statue that has no understanding. King Solomon, the wisest of all men, declared that he was baffled by it; for how can the ashes of a dead animal purify someone who was only impure by being in contact with a dead body in the first place?

 

Yet that is precisely what the Torah commands. Plus it had to be performed by a Kohen, a member of the Levite Tribe; the only Tribe not to have been involved with the Sin of the Golden Calf.

 

It is read specifically this week as we are now starting in earnest our preparations for Pesach; when besides for every Jew being obligated to go to the Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem we also have to internalise the message of Freedom. Freedom from the Mitzrayim – the constraints of the Egypt (Min Hametzar Karasi Kah – from the constraints I call to you Hashem – Tehillim 118) and enter into the wide expanse and true freedom of spirituality.

 

Thus we bring together both these Torah readings; the mistake of the Golden Calf when we erroneously thought we needed the physicality of an intermediary, and the procedure of the Red Heifer when we are reminded that true freedom means attaching ourselves to (and in a certain manner, giving ourselves over to) the spirituality of the Almighty. That doesn’t mean blind faith, for even King Solomon questioned it, but it does mean that we still need to continue even when we may not understand and not give in to the pessimistic and narcissistic machinations of the Erev Rav and those who would wish to deter us.