"We are closer to G-d when we are asking the questions, than when we think we have the answers" Heschel

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Parshas Parah

FNQ Parsha Thought

The Mishna Berura (655:1) says that the reason why we read Parshas Parah the Shabbos before Parshas HaChodesh, that heralds Chodesh Nissan, is to commemorate the burning of the Parah Aduma.  The Parah Aduma is the essential ingredient in the water which serves to purify all of Klal Yisrael thereby enabling them to offer the Korban Pesach.  He concludes: “we read this Parsha as a prayer to Hashem that He will throw the pure waters upon us very soon.”

There is a well known conundrum that is taught in the Medrash Tanchuma (Chukas: 3) and stated slightly differently in the Gemara (Nidah 9a) regarding the Parah Aduma. In the process of showering the waters the impure individual as well as the pourer of the water would become pure; however, any other individual who would touch the very sane water or would be in any way involved in the process would become impure. This is perhaps the quintessential “chok” in the Torah.  It is a decree of Hashem and not meant to be fully understood by our limited intellect.  However, even though we are not meant to understand fully the reason for the Parah Adumah, we can and must still attempt to learn from it.

With this in mind we begin with a teaching of the Kedushas Levi.  In our teffilos we have two different ways of relating to G-d. We sometimes approach G-d directly and refer to Hashem by saying “Baruch Atah...” in the first person.  We (if we have any awareness of what we’re saying) work up the necessary chutzpah to be able to come before Hashem and speak to Him as if we have a personal audience.  Whenever we address Hashem in this way we should quickly come to the realization that it is absolutely ridiculous and impossible for us to have such a direct dialogue.  Following this realization we should shy away and begin to refer to Hashem as “Hu” in the 3rd person.  He who is the Master of the universe with whom we cannot relate.

This friction is the core of our growth as Ovdei Hashem, we constantly yearn and attempt to get closer and closer to Hashem but every time we think we have taken a step closer we become rocked by a realization that any attempt to get closer to Hashem isn't actually possible and we revert back to a distant “Hu”.

When you feel you this distance you should not think that you have failed. Rather, you should feel like Rebbi Akiva did in his experience as recounted in Chagiga 14b: “He was nichnas beshalom and yotzei beshalom”. When he left that sublime closeness he was aware that it was inevitable that he would have to leave and he did so beshalom.  He did not leave as a loser but with the total consciousness that Hashem is infinite and permanent closeness is unattainable.

This experience, says the Kedushas Levi, is taught to us through the mitzva of the Parah Adumah. The person who is pouring and the person who is having the water poured upon him are both involved in an activity which shows kedusha flowing from the top down. They know that what they are doing is hidden and not understandable. But he who is actively involved with the purifying water, he who attempts to approach purity will become impure. Those who think that they can gain long term entrance into the world of the sublime will come out tamei.

This experience is put so beautifully by Rav Soleveitchik in his Essay Catharsis:
“Man must be ready to accept defeat not only in the carnal, aesthetic, emotional, or intellectual world but also in the moral-religious world, in his relationship with God. Man must be capable of recognizing that he is subject, willy-nilly, to the dialectical movement even in his encounter with God...we have taught that the moral challenge which confronts man and the opportunities offered him are unlimited. Man, as seen by Judaism, is potentially a good, progressive being. However, man often finds himself in the grip of an overwhelming, irresistible force that pulls him downward. The ascent up the mount of the Lord often turns into a rapid descent down the mount. The impetuous and passionate rush toward God may suddenly become a flight from God. Man moves toward the fulfillment of his destiny along a zig-zag line; progress frequently superseded by retrogression; closeness to God, by the dark night of separation. Man not only rises but falls as well; and rises again from his fall only to fall once more. Moral erring and culpability are interwoven into our very existential fabric. No man can claim that he is perfect, that his existential experience has been purged of all selfish, undignified brutish motives. In a word, the Bible is confident of man, but it is also very suspicious of man. Catharsis of religious life consists exactly in the awareness of the long interludes during which man finds himself at an infinite distance from God: the periodic states of ecstasy engendered by the feeling of closeness to God alternate with the states of black despair, which even the prophet encounters during moments of exile from the presence of the Almighty. Those long periods of black despair contain the cathartic element which cleanses and redeems religious life."

May we be zocheh to properly prepare ourselves so that HASHEM THROWS THE PURIFYING WATER UPON US, let it be soon!!

No comments:

Post a Comment