Determining holiness – not an intellectual matter…: Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Chukat

How did the famous “Red Cow” fall into place (In the Torah) between two “emergency situations”?

Just before this week’s Parsha, we had Korach. An incident which ended tragically, and following the “Para Aduma” chapter, we are thrown yet again into a sudden loss of water supply to the entire congregation  

stationed in the hot entire  desert.

This, on top of the famous Rashi explaining the cynical opposition of other nations to the laws of Para Aduma. Their cynicism concentrates on the fact that the same “Para Aduma” – when applied to anyone who is טמא (impure), it rectifies his Tumaa, his impurity. But when applied to a person who is טהור (Tahor, i.e. pure) it causes him to become impure. The “opposition” finds this irrational.

So, let us go back one week to Korach: Rav Joseph Dov Soloveitchik famously describes Korach’s revolt as “the common-sense rebellion against Torah authority…”  Rashi cites a passage from the Midrash describing how Korach ridiculed certain laws in an attempt to challenge Moshe’s authority and paramount Kedusha.   Korach’s (in)famous statement that “the entire congregation is holy ” expressed a conviction that we, human beings, can determine “intellectually” who is holy, or “holier”.

In this context, the Para Aduma might represent Hashem’s “answer” to the above assumption. The Para Aduma serves as a clear reminder to us that matters of holiness or impurity are not determined intellectually.  As is demonstrated by the fact that it can “cure“  impurity    

to one person, and “cause” purity to another. (Indeed “impurity” is a mystical matter altogether) and therefore the above idea promoted by Korach is totally refuted.

The Torah has many Mitzvot which we can fully understand (mainly the Mitzvot dealing with the inter-human relationships) but quite a few which we are able to learn about and understand, – up to a degree which our limited minds can comprehend.

Kind regards and Shabbat Shalom Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld