Monday, June 29, 2009

Parashat Chukat-Balak

Bamidbar 19:1 - 25:9

Why is There Death in the World?
-Rabbi Ginsburgh

The Torah portion of Chukat begins with the commandment of the red heifer. When a cow that meets the intricate halachic ("Jewish law") criteria for a red heifer is burned as per the Torah's instructions, and its ashes are mixed with fresh stream water, the resulting mixture purifies a person who has come in contact with death. According to Jewish law, death is considered the "Father of Fathers" of impurity, and a person who has come into contact with death becomes impure. Spiritually, this contact with death means that the person has become affected by the law of entropy. At some level, he has integrated into his own soul that there is no eternity in reality, leading to inner, spiritual despair.

One of the most basic foundations of the Torah is that we must serve God with absolute joy. This can only be accomplished if one is released from the fear of death and all that it implies. What is the Divine power of the ashes of the red heifer that heals us from the despair of death?