the Parah Aduma: It is Hashem’s will that purifies, not the magical power of a cow’s ashes

The Red Heifer- its is G-d’s will that purifies, not the magical power of a cows ashes!

This weeks parsha introduced us to what the Torah itself describes as חוקת התורה ; The ‘law’ of the Torah.

A חוק “chok” Is generally understood as a commandment whose rationale is hidden from human logic and is solely in the domain of divine understanding.

Other common examples of these are the laws of forbidden foods and the prohibition of wearing mixtures of wool and linen.

This is in contrast to משפט “ mishpat “ or “rational law”, that can be explained with human logic, for example, the prohibition against stealing, or the command to give charity.

I was bothered by what it is that is so unique about this law that allows it to merit that status of “the ‘chok’ of the Torah”- the prototype of all chukim.
How is purifying people contaminated by contact with dead with a mixture of water and the ashes of the red heifer any less logical than the prohibition against mixing wool and linen or the laws of kashrus?

Just like one could make some weak attempt to rationalize kashrus by referencing self-control or arguable health benefits, one could justify the uniqueness of such a special rare species, completely dedicated to its holy mission, being used for purity ritual.

However, when one analyzes this more carefully, there is a property of this law that is completely unique and that no weak rationalizations of that type could possibly cover: The very same ashes of that heifer that purify the impure person, also cause impurity to the priest who performs the ritual.

Whereas logic can be found to show that a particular item sprinkled in a certain way on a typical person has a certain positive effect, no logic in the world could show that the EXACT same item, sprinkled on a biologically similar person, in exactly the same way, as a rule without exception, the only difference being his previous status of purity, would have the precise opposite results.

This is what makes this law the prototype “chok.”
[I later found this idea in a number of commentators including Seforno,Rabbeinu Bachya, and even in the Midrash.]

The ashes of the heifer have NO intrinsic magical or mystical powers in their own right- they cause purity, only because God says that they should, and when the same and only G-d says that they should cause impurity, then that is EXACTLY what they do.

The Torah uses this clear example to teach us the same rule about all laws in the Torah: An item is permitted or prohibited, pure or impure, because and ONLY because, Hashem gives it that status, not because of any special magical or curative powers of that item. When Hashem’s law makes that item permitted, such as in the case of danger to life, when something is nullified in a mixture of 60 times the amount (bittul) or the once-off ruling of a bona-fide prophet, that very same item loses its forbidden status and becomes completely permitted.

And although at times the Torah permits a kohain to become impure for a relative, but he nonetheless still obtains the status of impurity, even the purifying and defiling affects of an object are completely subject to the word of God, as we see from this beautiful law- the law of the red heifer.
As the Talmudic Sage, Rav, explains so clearly [Beraishit Rabbah 44/a], Hashem doesn’t objectively really care where one slaughters an animal from:” The commandments were only given to refine people.”



The Chofetz Chaim and Apartheid

“All human beings are God’s children”

The Ponovizer Rov, Rav Kahanaman zt’l used to visit South Africa a lot as he had relatives there and the Jewish community there has mainly Lithuanian roots.

He once visited the Chofetz Chaim zt’l after one of these visits, and the Chofetz Chaim asked him about how the black people in south Africa were doing and that he had heard they were being persecuted.

Rav Kahanaman asked the Chofetz Chaim what his interest was in south african affairs.

The Chofetz Chaim replied that they are also G-d’s people and he needs to be concerned about their welfare.
(heard from Rabbi Abraham Tanzer שליטא , Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshiva College of South Africa)

Kosher products in danger?

It has been reported in the “The Times”,  (Johannesburg,June 18, page 6 “Food labelling on the boil”) , that under proposed new “consumer” legislation, “if a shop stocks foods with religious endorsements, such as “kosher” or “halal”, identical food without religious claims on the labelling must also be available.

This would ‘give consumers their constitutional right of freedom of choice’, the draft says.”

In a free market economy, people have the right to buy and sell whatever they want, and not be forced to buy and sell anything, so the entire spirit of this law is anti-progressive and smells of interventionism and communism.


However, even if there was merit in the absurd  argument that stores had a “constitutional” obligation to stock products that their patrons were happy with, the idea that the presence of a label on a product which does nothing more than confirm the absence of any products forbidden to a particular religious group, is an infringement on anyone’s “constitutional right of freedom of choice” is absolutely preposterous.

On the contrary, any requirement to produce separate product lines, will inevitably achieve one of two things:

  1. Either the price of the product will be driven up, which would have  a REAL negative effect on consumers, and also provoke religious hatred and resentment as a result
  2. Producers and retailers would be unable to stock products suitable for religious groups, which would certainly be a very REAL infringement of these groups “constitutional freedom of religion”, leaving them with nothing to eat.

Now, I ask you, what is more of a constitutional infringement? A small harmless label, or interfering with free-trade PLUS a choice between forced price-increases and religious incitement or religious persecution and forced starvation?

As is common these days, some people in high places

Science and Torah- age of the universe?

Scientists just admitted that they got the age of the earth wrong by 60 million years! because of  few crystals found in South Africa nd Australia. and we supposed to take science seriously as a real challenge to our G-d given Torah? I’m all for reconciling Torah and science wherever possible, but give me a break!


Kidnapped teens and the declining superpower

Fatah orders the people to sabotage army’s search for missing teens and posts cartoons about their kidnapping, Palestinians give out sweets to celebrate the abduction, and the U.S. takes three days to condemn the outrage. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Middle-East, Obama and his new friends in Iran prepare to defend Baghdad against ISIS. in Eurasia, Putin wipes the dust off the iron curtain and gets ready to roll it back over Eastern Europe, while America joins the long list of former superpowers. and on whom can we lean, if not on our father who is in heaven?