The mystery of the Poro Adumah (Red Heifer) defeated even King Solomon whose wisdom was renowned as beyond comparison. The Ashes of the Heifer were used to purify those impure through contact with a corpse. Yet the same ashes contaminated the purifier and required him to go through another albeit less rigorous form of purification.
A word about defilement by contact with a corpse. Contact with a dead person generates the most intense type of ritual impurity. The Reb Tzodok HaCohen Zt’l explains why. The reason is simply that a live human being has the potential to be a holy being, in fact holier than the angels…much holier than the angels. When someone dies that potential is lost from the world. It is for this reason that there is a degree of this condition, which applies to a woman once a month. The failure of a life to come into this world is a faint echo of this.
We have no difficulty in 1999 with the paradox of the Red Heifer. Many medicines and treatments mirror the phenomenon. X-rays are used to combat Cancer. In a healthy person they can cause Cancer. The same is true of many drugs. The same was true at the time of many things when King Solomon lived. The point of his inability to penetrate the mystery of the Red Heifer was certainly not at this simple level. What defeated his intellect will defeat everyone.
One thing about the Red Heifer, which is not impenetrable, is the concept of a Mitzva being intrinsically impenetrable.
The 613 Commandments in the Torah are divided into those we can rationalise and those we cannot. The latter category of Mitzvos performs an essential task.
If all Mitzvos made “sense” then of course they would be kept; it makes sense to! There would therefore be no vehicle within the observing of these principals, which indicate to us, or to others that we are doing them because G-d commanded us to.
Imagine my little daughter approaches an electric socket with a mettle knitting needle and is about to insert it. I am too far away to grab her so I call out to her to stop. She’s too young to understand about Voltage and Wattage and Earths. I would hope however that she loves her father and knows that her father would not ask her to do something unless it is good for her. If she obeys me even thought she cannot understand why I’m asking her to stop, then she is making the statement; I love and trust my Dad.
When we keep Mitzvos like the Poro Adumah even though its ultimate explanation defeated the wisest man who ever lived we are making the same statement about G-d.
Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein has thrilled audiences from Jerusalem to Manchester and Johannesburg to Los Angeles. There are two reasons for his success. One is a mastery of sources in Jewish philosophy and his understanding of contemporary events. The other is his unique delivery…If you have the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom…do not miss it!Rabbi Professor Dovid Gottlieb