Vayakhel: Parshas Parah

At the Megillah reading on Purim night, a nine-year-old Chassidic Rebbe was sitting in front of me.  Before davening began, I noticed that he was fiddling with something.  So I leaned over and saw that he was loading his .44 Magnum (with caps).  Now, most women would laugh at such a “contradiction.”  However, most boys and former boys, would see no contradiction at all!  Of course, the leader of a Chassidic dynasty needs to be loading his .44 Magnum!


Nor is there anything weird about the four-year-old bunny rabbit a few rows down brandishing an M-16.


Okay, on to more important things.


When a glass vessel has a chip or a hole in it, there are two ways of repairing it.  The first is by repairing the area which is damaged.  With that, you are able to use the glass vessel again without any issues.  However, it’s a vessel you would probably not want to use when the President of the United States comes for dinner.  Most likely, you would go and buy one that looks like it’s in better condition.  The second option is to melt down the glass and rebuild it from scratch.  Yeah, it’s a lot of work, but in the end, you have a brand new glass vessel.


This week is Parshas Parah (or in English, “The Torah Reading of the Cow," it sounds so . . . Chinese).  We know that when a person was in an impure state, he/she was not allowed in the Beis HaMikdash.  In order to go, and if they were impure from touching a corpse, they would need to be sprinkled with water mixed with the ashes of a Red Heifer.  We read this parsha now, in order to prepare ourselves for Pesach, where we (in theory) need to go to the Beis HaMikdash.


Rav Shimshon Pincus often describes the Seder night as the time we rebuild ourselves.  It’s worth listening to some of his talks or reading his Hagaddah on Pesach to see how we are building a “Man” on Pesach night.  After all, Pesach is the first Chag of the year, and it is the time when the Jewish nation was born.  If Pesach night is the time for building, then Parshas HaChodesh (next week), is the time of laying down the foundations of this building (hopefully more on this next week).  If that is true, then Parshas Parah (this week), is the cleaning up of the land that occurs before building the foundations.


The Gemara in Shabbos writes that a person born during a certain time will have a tendency to spill blood.  There are two ways of rectifying this tendency.  First, by keeping away from all forms of violence.  Not even to kill a mosquito.  By doing this, however, they’re not really “fixing” the issue.  They’re bypassing it (similar to patching the glass vessel).  The other way is by becoming a shochet (animal slaughterer) or a mohel.  By becoming one of those, they are using their specific characteristics for holiness.


Being so, we are to use this time leading up to Pesach by, “burning the Red Heifer,” taking one (or more) of the negative characteristics we have, and “reworking it” from scratch.  How do we do that?  How do we burn it to ashes?  By simply being honest with ourselves.  When we can take an issue that we have, ADMIT that it’s an issue, and then TAKE PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for that issue, we are breaking down that issue into ashes.  Only after that hard work and self-examination, can we start to rebuild ourselves.


Have a wonderful Shabbos!


Michael Winner