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Death Isn’t Final

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

Library » Holidays » Purim » The 4 Parshiot | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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On Shabbat Parah we read about the purification process of the Red Heifer. In times past, one who contracted the most severe form of impurity (through contact with a corpse) needed to be purified with the ashes of the Red Heifer in order to be permitted access to the Holy Temple. This is phase one of our Passover preparations; attaining the spiritual purity which guarantees us entry to the Temple during the upcoming holiday.

The Torah is eternal. Although certain Mitzvot – such as all the Temple related commandments – are restricted to specific times and conditions, they contain a message which is applicable to all people at all times. On Passover, the season of our liberation, we seek personal redemption. We seek to have a spiritual and fulfilling life; to be freed from our “inner Pharaoh” who strives to torpedo our journey to Mt. Sinai and our receiving the Torah. Our preparations for this redemption commence with the spiritual service of the Red Heifer.

The Midrash tells us that when G-d taught Moses the laws of spiritual purity, He told him both the manner of contamination and the manner of purification. When G-d came to the laws concerning one who comes in contact with a dead body, Moses’ face paled. He said to G-d: “Master of the universe! If one is thus contaminated, how will he be purified?”

One who is totally detached from his Divine source can only reestablish the connection through total commitment to G-d. This commitment involves following G-d through thick and thin, whether it’s convenient, comfortable, and sensible or not
“But you who cleave to the Lord your G-d are alive, all of you, this day” (Deuteronomy 4:4). G-d is the source of all life; hence all who are connected to Him are alive. Thus our sages tell us that “Righteous people, even after their passing, are regarded as alive. Wicked people, even while they are ‘alive,’ are considered dead.” The impurity contracted through association with a corpse is so acute because it is a metaphor for one who has completely severed himself from his lifeline—a person whose life is totally devoid of G-dly purpose. Even Moses couldn’t envision a purification process which could counteract such a grave impurity!

But life after death does exist. By following the procedure of the Red Heifer, the spiritually lifeless person can begin to enjoy a fulfilling life, rich with meaning and purpose. The uniqueness of the Red Heifer, its quality which allows it to imbue life within a spiritual carcass, is its absurdity—it is a Mitzvah which makes no sense whatsoever. When King Solomon, the wisest of all men, reflected on this mitzvah, he exclaimed, “I said, ‘I will become wise,’ but it is far from me.” Many Mitzvot are difficult to comprehend, but this one really takes the cake… One who is totally detached from his Divine source can only reestablish the connection through total commitment to G-d. This commitment involves following G-d through thick and thin, whether it’s convenient, comfortable, and sensible or not. Finite human intellect is certainly not a vehicle through which to connect to the infinite G-d.

The redemption of Passover is available to all. First, however, we must reconnect to our source of life through internalizing the lesson of the Red Heifer.


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Mitzvah
(pl. Mitzvot). A commandment from G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Shabbat
(pl: Shabbatot). Hebrew word meaning "rest." It is a Biblical commandment to sanctify and rest on Saturday, the seventh day of the week. This commemorates the fact that after creating the world in six days, G-d rested on the seventh.
Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Passover
A Biblically mandated early-spring festival celebrating the Jewish exodus from Egypt in the year 1312 BCE.
Mitzvot
Plural form of Mitzvah. Commandments of G-d. Mitzvah also means a connection, for a Jew connects with G–d through fulfilling His commandments.
Moses
[Hebrew pronunciation: Moshe] Greatest prophet to ever live. Led the Jews out of Egyptian bondage amidst awesome miracles; brought down the Tablets from Mount Sinai; and transmitted to us word-for-word the Torah he heard from G-d's mouth. Died in the year 1272 BCE.
Midrash
(Pl. Midrashim). Non-legal material of anecdotal or allegorical nature, designed either to clarify historical material, or to teach a moral point. The Midrashim were compiled by the sages who authored the Mishna and Talmud (200 BCE-500 CE).
Red Heifer
A cow that was completely red. This cow was burned together with several ingredients, and its ash, mixed with water, was sprayed upon certain impure people in order to purify them.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
Deuteronomy
The fifth of the Five Books of Moses. This book is a record of the monologue which Moses spoke to the Israelites in the five weeks prior to his passing.
Temple
1. Usually a reference to the Holy Temple which was/will be situated in Jerusalem. 1st Temple was built in 825 BCE and was destroyed in 423 BCE. The 2nd Temple was built in 350 BCE and was destroyed in 70 CE. The 3rd Temple will be built by the Messiah. 2. A synagogue.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.