Through The Eyes of a Woman
Chukas: The Value of Life
This is the parshah that deals with the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer).
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Parah Adumah, I'll try very
briefly to summarize the main points.
In Yiddishkeit, spiritual purity is a desirable factor. This has nothing
to do with hygiene and personal cleanliness; it is a spiritual state that is called
taharah -- purity. The opposite of taharah is tumah,
which is translated as "impurity." But the truth is, it's very, very difficult to
give an accurate English translation to these two terms -- taharah
and tumah -- simply because they do not exist in the English language.
These concepts do not exist any place other than in Torah and therefore, foreign
languages don't have the capacity to provide good synonyms for them.
At any rate, the Torah describes many situations that can impart this state of
tumah to a person. Among these is contact with a dead body. Those of you
who have unfortunately been at a funeral may know that, after you come back from
the cemetery, before you go into the house, you have to wash negel-vasser
-- pouring water on each hand alternately, six times in total. Why do
you wash negel-vasser? Because it is a spiritual formula for removing
tumah from your hands. We don't have to go into a mikveh after a funeral,
but we must at least do negel-vasser. A Kohen is not allowed to go
to a cemetery at all, except under special conditions.
Another situation that can cause a person to become spiritually contaminated
is the disease of tzoraas, which doesn't exist today. In Biblical times there
was such a disease, which is today loosely translated as "leprosy." However, it
really isn't the leprosy of today, which is called "Hanson's Disease." The leprosy
of the Torah is a disease in which the person noticed various colored blemishes
on his skin. If he did not go and get cured, through the help of the Kohen,
if the disease progressed, if it was not stopped in its early stages, then eventually
his limbs would die, one by one -- an awful kind of death.
Yet another situation which causes tumah is birth. When a woman gives
birth, she contracts a spiritual impurity called tumas yoledes. There are
various other situations which the Torah describes, which also cause tumah.
The common denominator of all these kinds of tumah is that they are all somehow
related to the concept of death. Even childbirth is associated with death, not because
of the dangers involved, but simply because the mother who carried the child for
nine months had an extra neshamah in her -- an extra life --
during the pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman is extra pure. But when the child
is born and leaves her body -- even though the child is independently
alive outside the mother's body -- then as far as the mother's body is
concerned, there was a loss of life. This loss of life is the reason for her temporary
state of spiritual impurity.
Similarly, when a man has an issue of seed from his body, this seed can potentially
impregnate a woman and cause a child to be born; there is a potential for life in
every drop of seed. Every time a man has an issue, even if his wife becomes pregnant,
he becomes tameh. When a woman has her menstrual period every month, that
egg which died, if it had become impregnated, could have become another person.
Therefore, there is a vestige of death every month, when a woman has her period.
And that is why she has the impurity called tumas niddah.
We can see how Torah values life -- how the highest thing in Yiddishkeit
is life. The Torah itself is called "a Tree of Life." Where there is life, there
is holiness and purity, and where there is death or the loss of life, there is
tumah. Though a person may be alive today, there was once a period when he
wasn't alive, and there will be another period when he won't be alive. But to be
really alive even when one is alive, it is not sufficient to just live. "You who
cleave to HaShem are all alive today," a verse states. An evil person --
even while he's still alive -- is called dead. Breathing and having your
heart pumping do not denote life. What the Torah considers "life" is connected with
Torah, with Yiddishkeit. A tzaddik is called living even when he has
passed away from this world -- because he clung to the Source of life.
This is what Parshas Chukas is all about. This parshah talks about
a very strange mitzvah. I say "strange," because there are certain details
of the mitzvah of Parah Adumah (removing defilement by sprinkling
the ashes of the Red Heifer) that are unlike any other mitzvah in the Torah.
The mitzvah of Parah Adumah is totally irrational -- there
is no rhyme or reason by which a person can figure out how this procedure makes
any sense. Nevertheless, the Torah describes an exact procedure that a person must
undergo if he wishes to rid himself of the impurity which is brought about by contact
with a dead body.
Let's say a person who lived in Biblical times was sitting in
his tent when suddenly someone in that tent passed away. That person, because he
was in the same tent at the moment of the other person's death, has contracted the
strongest possible type of tumah -- the impurity of actual death.
Somebody who is at a funeral, or has to carry the dead body from the house in
which the person died to the cemetery, or he buries the person (this is one of the
greatest mitzvos, to bring a Jewish body to a Jewish burial) becomes extremely
impure. Why do I say "extremely"? Because there are levels in tumah. Contact
with the dead is the most intense kind.
In order for a person to return to a life of taharah, he had to undergo
a seven-day process of spiritual purification, during which time he could not visit
the Beis HaMikdash, bring a sacrifice, touch ritually pure food, and so on.
This, of course, applied in Biblical and Temple times, but not today. Today only
Kohanim observe some of the mitzvos of purity and impurity.
This process of purification included being sprinkled with ashes from a red heifer
that was burned in a very special way. These ashes were mixed with spring water
and other ingredients. This process sounds strange; to our minds it doesn't make
And yet, the Torah says, whether you like it or not, "this is the decree of the
Torah." You don't like it, you can remain impure. Generally, it's no sin to remain
impure for an extended period of time. If a person wants to be tameh for
the rest of his life, go ahead. But, as long as you are tameh, you cannot
do the following things: You cannot come to the Beis HaMikdash, you cannot
bring a sacrifice, you cannot touch ritually pure food. If you want to be out of
it, that's your privilege. But if you want to come back, you must go through this
From the time the Torah was given, nine cows were prepared for this purification
process. A cow with even two black hairs was disqualified as a Red Heifer. We are
told that the tenth Parah Adumah will be prepared when Mashiach comes.
All of us will be sprinkled with its ashes because all of us, whether we like it
or not, have become impure due to contact with the dead. All of us. If you have
ever been at a funeral, a hospital or a cemetery during the course of your life,
you have contracted this type of impurity.
Because there is no Beis HaMikdash
today, it doesn't affect us in a relevant way. But when Mashiach comes and
we will all want to go to the Beis HaMikdash, we will all have to undergo
this process of purification.
Now the interesting thing about it is that those Kohanim who were involved
in preparing the ashes of the Red Heifer -- in order to help their fellow
Jews become pure again -- became tameh. The Torah says that the
mystery, the paradox, of the Red Heifer is that it purified the impure and impurified
the pure. How does something that has the ability to purify one person cause impurity
in another? It doesn't appear to make sense; it's a contradiction. Yet, "This is
the decree of the Torah."
The mitzvos are divided into three categories, called mishpatim, chukkim,
and eidos. The category of mitzvos called mishpatim, which
is probably the majority of the Torah, refers to those mitzvos that are rational.
They are so rational, that even if the Torah didn't tell us, we'd probably figure
them out by ourselves. Like the prohibition against murder; you don't have to be
a very pious, G-d fearing Jew to realize that killing is not a nice thing to do.
Many people are not murderers even though they're not chassidim or even orthodox.
This is the category of mishpatim.
Eidos are a different kind of mitzvah. Eidos are those
mitzvos that we probably would never have invented of our own accord, but
because the Torah told us, we can see some logic in them. Basically, these are the
mitzvos that have to do with testimony: they testify that certain historical
events occurred, such as Pesach; when HaShem took us out of Egypt, our forefathers
ate matzah, so we also eat matzah. It could be that we'd never come
up with it on our own, but we could accept it; it makes sense in a certain way.
Chukkim are those mitzvos that we just cannot figure out rationally.
The classic example is Parah Adumah -- who would ever think of
such a mitzvah? To take a Red Heifer, burn it, and sprinkle its ashes...who
would invent such a mitzvah? No one. Another example is the prohibition against
wearing linen and wool. Who would even think of such a mitzvah --
that you shouldn't be able to wear linen and wool, shaatnez? Why not? Or
to deny yourself cheeseburgers. Why should the Torah say that this food is no good,
that food is good; this meat is kosher because it comes from an animal that chews
its cud and has split hooves whereas the other meat is not kosher because it comes
from an animal which does not have these qualifications?
We see that there are certain mitzvos that just don't make mortal sense.
Try as you will, you will never find a rational reason for those mitzvos.
Those mitzvos are called chukkim -- laws, statutes, decrees.
You like it, you don't like it; this is the Jewish way.
Parah Adumah falls into the category of chukkim. That's why the
name of the parshah is Chukas, because this mitzvah is the
classic decree. The Torah says "this is the decree of the Torah," not, "this is
the decree of the Parah Adumah," as if to say, "This is the paradigmatic
decree of the entire Torah. If you want to know what the whole Torah is about, look
at Parah Adumah." And then we say to ourselves, "But how can you say that
this is the chok of the Torah? This is so different from other mitzvos.
It's not like the other mitzvos; it's unusual. It's the exception, not the
rule. I don't know any other mitzvah that's so weird."
The Rebbe explains that we have to look a little bit deeper in order to see that
hidden in the mitzvah of Parah Adumah are many of the most fundamental
concepts of the Torah.
One of the things that the Rebbe explains is that in every person, there are
two levels. There's the level of intellect, and there's the level of will. Will
and intellect are not the same thing. You might think that since a person is basically
an intelligent being, the will and the intellect are the same thing; you want what
makes sense, and what makes sense is what you want. But it doesn't always work that
way: You could know, logically, that this is the right thing, but you don't want
it -- you want something else, which everybody tells you is crazy.
For example, with shidduchim. Everyone is telling the girl, "He's not
for you; it doesn't make sense; look at his personality." But she says, "I don't
care, I want to marry him!" Or it could be with a dress: "It's only dry-cleanable,
it's white, it's too expensive, it doesn't make sense." But the kid says, "I want
it, I like it, and that's that!" Will is will and brains are brains; they are not
the same thing.
Intellect is something that you can explain in words. Will is something that
is higher than intellect, that you cannot explain. If somebody asks you, "Why do
you want this thing? It doesn't make sense, it's crazy!" You can't even explain
to them why. "I just want it. That's it. I want it; I can't tell you why, I just
The same way that our will transcends intellect, so too, with an obvious difference,
with HaShem -- because we are created in G-d's image. Everything
that exists in a person is a mirror of what is going on in G-d Himself. Chassidus
explains that there's a level of G-dly revelation which can be understood rationally,
and there's a level of G-d that transcends intellect, that we can never understand.
Those mitzvos which are called mishpatim, those that make sense to
us, are actually at a lower level. For every mitzvah HaShem asks of us --
don't murder, don't steal, etc. -- there is a Divine reason, a Divine
desire that HaShem has for us to do that mitzvah. Some of the mitzvos
were "contracted;" they came down in such a way that they can be understood even
by limited human intellect.
Imagine a mother trying to tell her three-year-old child why he has to eat vegetables.
She says, "If you eat the vegetables, you will grow, you'll be strong, your teeth
won't hurt, you'll see well at night..." She can't really explain to the child everything
it says in the textbook about vitamins, but she tries to condense the idea that
vegetables are healthy to her child, in whatever language; she's bringing it down
to the child's level.
Then there are certain things that parents don't even try to explain --
it's just too complicated, it's too high. They will never be able to give this concept
to a three-year-old. So when the three-year-old says, "Mommy, why do I have to...?"
You say, "Listen, honey, I'm your mommy, you're my child, and you're going to do
it because I said so." You know that when the child is 25 and is herself a mother,
you will try then to talk it out; but right now, "I'm your mommy, and you must listen
Certain things HaShem cannot explain to us. Our intellect, compared to
HaShem, is far lower than that of a three-year-old compared to a twenty-five-year-old.
The child is going to be a parent someday. Right now the child is three; but when
he's six, when he's ten -- his intellect grows. And eventually he and
you will be on the same level; sometimes children surpass their parents in intelligence,
it's just a relative thing. But the intelligence of a human being compared to the
Creator? The gap is infinite.
Those mitzvos we call chukkim are on such a level, that there is
no way HaShem could condense the reason or the rationality behind them in
terms the human mind can grasp. Now, it is said that when Mashiach comes,
our understanding will grow and our consciousness will change to such a level that,
in a sense, we won't be human beings anymore -- we'll be like angels.
But now, in our current situation, there is no way that a person, with his finite
intellect, can ever grasp a chok. And that's why HaShem doesn't even
try; we just do it because He said so. It's not possible for a human being to understand
Therefore, a chok in a sense is higher than a mishpat, because
it cannot come down to the level of a mishpat. Just take it and do it; it's
the Jewish thing to do. That's what you tell a person: when a person asks "Why?"
you ask, "Are you Jewish? If you are Jewish, then you should know that this is what
Jewish people do; this is part of the Jewish Torah. You can't understand it, but
it's the Jewish thing to do, so do it. You don't understand it? You don't have to
understand everything; who says you have to understand everything?"
Sometimes when a person is becoming religious, you try to appeal to them with
nice reasons. You say, "Do this mitzvah -- it's so beautiful. Let
me tell you the reason." And they say, "Oh, it's so inspiring; I'm going to do that
But how do you inspire them to do a mitzvah that doesn't make sense? You
tell them that when you do a mitzvah that makes sense, that has a beautiful
reason, what is happening is that your intellect is hooking on to HaShem's
intellect. You will say, "Even though I'm a human being, with my human mind, I can
now understand a little bit of G-d's mind, because this is part of the mishpat."
But when you do a mitzvah that doesn't make sense to you, that your mind
can't even relate to at all, and you do it anyway, you are reaching a part of
HaShem which is called Etzem -- the Essence. In other words,
HaShem's "intellect" is a lower dimension of HaShem than HaShem's
Essence, Just as our intellect is lower than our will.
Would you say that the essence of a person is his IQ? No, because the person's
intellectual level is one of the manifestations of who he is, but it's not him.
You are something that is greater than any of your powers. Your brain is a detail
of you, but you are greater than your brain, your speech and your powers.
The word etzem in Hebrew means a bone, just as we know that inside each
of our limbs there is an etzem, a bone. But it also means the essence --
what's inside. It is the quality of "what is it?" That's the etzem.
The Etzem of HaShem is His innermost core. It's far higher than
any explanation. When you do a mitzvah that you don't understand, you're
hooking in -- not to HaShem's "brain" -- but to HaShem's
Essence. And that's much higher.
When you say, "I am doing the mitzvah, because I enjoy doing it, because
it makes me feel good, because it makes so much sense, because I like it," that
is one level. But a much higher level is reached when one can say, "I am doing it
because I am a Jew; I have a Jewish soul. And my G-d said that He wants me to do
this, so I'm going to do it. I don't know if I understand it, I don't know if I
agree with it -- but I'm going to do it anyway." When you do a mitzvah
like that, it's infinitely greater than doing the mitzvah because you understand
it. You are transcending the level of intellect. The etzem of your soul is
joining with the etzem of HaShem.
This means that your highest level is linking up with HaShem's highest
level. It's a superior way of serving G-d.
To put it another way, we are all different in many ways; if we were all to take
an IQ test right now, we would not all get the same mark. Let's say that all of
us were meeting together in a room, and would have to perform a rational mitzvah
-- the mitzvah of learning Torah, for example. Suppose somebody
would come and say, "I want everybody, for the next hour, to learn Torah; it's a
mitzvah to learn Torah." Everybody in the room would do it differently: those
who could learn with commentaries would learn it on a very high level; those who
can barely read Hebrew would do it on a lower level, in a sense. Everybody would
learn Torah according to their level of insight; it would be very, very different.
Some would enjoy it, some wouldn't enjoy it -- everybody would be different.
However, if HaShem would come and say, "I want you all to do something
now: lift your right hand like this and your left hand like that, jump four times,
and turn around and look at the ceiling." No one would understand what in the world
this is. But we would all do the same thing -- whether we understood it
or not -- because it has nothing to do with intelligence.
In other words, a thing that has to do with intellect varies: everybody does
it according to their own intellect. But a thing that has nothing to do with intellect
is all the same; it is indicative of what all Jews have in common. As far as essence
is concerned, we are all the same. As far the essence of our neshamah, we
are all the same, whether we are baalei teshuvah or not; or are very learned
or very unlearned; or have a big yetzer hara or a little yetzer hara
-- that's all superficial. The etzem of the soul is the same for
all Jews; it has nothing to do with things that happen after you came down to this
Earth. So again, when a Jew observes the mitzvah which is called a chok,
it is a very lofty way of serving HaShem.
I would like to return to what I mentioned earlier: Why is the Parah Adumah
called chukas haTorah, "The decree of the Torah"? It's as if the Torah is
saying, "This is the crux of the whole Torah."
On this subject the Rebbe explains
something very, very beautiful. We know that the essence of the whole Torah is
ahavas Yisrael: There is the famous story of Hillel and a person who wanted
to convert provided that Hillel would teach him the Torah while standing on one
foot. Hillel answered: "What is hateful unto you, do not do to another. This is
the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary." What did he mean by this statement?
He meant that ahavas Yisrael is the key to the entire Torah. That's what
HaShem wants, first and foremost. And if a person has ahavas Yisrael
-- love for a fellow Jew -- that will lead him eventually to
keep the entire Torah, and it will bring him to love of HaShem.
The other way around doesn't work. If a Jew only has love for HaShem but
doesn't love his fellow Jews, that is a terrible, terrible flaw. But if he has only
ahavas Yisrael the Rebbe says, "Don't worry: he will eventually achieve
ahavas HaShem as well."
What more does the Rebbe say about Parah Adumah? What is the paradox of
the Parah Adumah? It is that the Jews went ahead and gave away hours of their
time in order to prepare it for somebody else. They didn't do it for themselves,
they did it for the other Jews who had become spiritually impure. In other words,
those kohanim who prepared the Parah Adumah not only gave up their
time to prepare it -- it's a long process -- but they also became
impure as a result.
One may ask, "Now, why should I go ahead and give up my time to help a Jew whom
I don't even know? I don't know who are going to be the beneficiaries of this
Parah Adumah." The container with its ashes was kept in a certain part of the
Beis HaMikdash and whenever it was necessary it was used. It's not as if
it was for your next door neighbor, for your mother, your brother; maybe for them
a Kohen would have spent his time and purity making it. But for a total stranger?!
Why should a Jew do that? Should a normal person go and harm himself to help another
The Rebbe declares, "This is the decree of the Torah." A Jew should not only
want to help another Jew when he gets a prize, when he becomes Chairman of the Dinner
or Man of the Year. Everyone will know that this person did a great deed; it'll
be in the newspaper, and he'll get a lot of honor for it. That's not necessarily
It's more like serving yourself; who knows if you are really doing the mitzvah
for others, or because you want everyone else to know how nice you are? What is
your real intention? But if you do something for another Jew and not only don't
you get rewarded for it, but you also become tameh for it, that is real
mesirus nefesh. Mesirus nefesh literally means giving away your soul
for somebody else -- self-sacrifice. When you sacrifice yourself for another
Jew, not only don't you get a prize, but you also, in a sense, suffer for it. That
is "the decree of the Torah."
If you ever go to a funeral -- we should never have to go to one --
you may notice that on the car carrying the deceased, there are four Hebrew letters:
gimmel, ches, shin, alef. These stand for the words gemilus chessed shel
emes -- acts of true kindness. Why is this called "true kindness?"
Because when you do a kindly act, someone will say, "Oh, you're so nice. I love
you. You're such a nice person." Well, you like to hear that, so you go help others
so that everyone will tell you how nice you are -- you go on an ego trip.
But if you go and bury a dead person, he'll never say "Thank you" to you. That's
it -- you're just doing it for him. It is chessed shel emes, true
kindness. It's the same thing with the chevrah kaddisha, which doesn't get
a thank you from the dead person, and they become tameh to boot.
So this is what the Rebbe teaches us about Parah Adumah. Why is it called
chukas haTorah? Because those that were involved with preparing the Parah
Adumah showed the ultimate in ahavas Yisrael, by working to help another
Jew become purified, though themselves becoming tameh in the process.
Another point the Rebbe makes is this: The Midrash tells us that HaShem
taught Moshe the whole Torah. (Moshe was in Heaven for forty days and forty nights,
and during this time HaShem taught him the entire Torah.) HaShem also
taught him the laws of tumah and taharah. When they came to the subject
of impurity through contact with the dead, the Midrash says that Moshe's
face became very dark, and he asked HaShem how a person who had become so
spiritually defiled could become purified?
The Rebbe notes that this is a strange
expression. Concerning all the other laws of the Torah Moshe's face is not described.
The Torah is not emotional, it doesn't talk about how Moshe reacted to what he was
learning. Suddenly the Torah says "Moshe reacted." When he learned this law, he
got very serious.
The Rebbe explained that when Moshe heard that a Jew could fall to such a low
level, that he would be on the lowest level of tumah -- defiled
by contact with the dead -- Moshe understood it in a spiritual sense:
not just a person who came in contact with a dead person, but a person who became
so far removed from Yiddishkeit, so far removed from holiness and from spirituality,
that he himself became like a corpse; it was as if the person himself was half dead.
This is because when you are impure, you cannot become involved with things of holiness.
The impure person, in spirituality, means a person who is cut off from life, from
When Moshe heard that a Jew could fall into such a situation, where he would
be so far removed from G-dliness, he got very, very upset. He looked at every Jew
as his child, and so he said, "My goodness, it's awful that a Jew should be in such
a situation -- so far away from Yiddishkeit, so far away from spirituality.
What will bring this Jew back to purity, to Yiddishkeit, to Torah?"
Then HaShem explained to him that this is the process through which a
Jew will be able to come back. HaShem explained to him that there are levels
in spirituality; that there is a level that's called the Thirteen Attributes of
Mercy, which transcends every level of impurity. It is such a lofty level of holiness
that it can raise anyone out of the deepest pit.
When the Yidden were in Egypt they were so low that only HaShem
Himself could take them out of Egypt. They had fallen so low, it required the very
loftiest level to lift them out of their impurity. Think of all the people that
you know -- rack your brain for a minute, and think of Jews you know who
seem so far away from Yiddishkeit, that you could never figure out how such
a Jew will come back; he's not interested, he doesn't identify. How is this Jew
ever going to come back to the fold? It seems so hopeless! It seems this Jew is
too far gone.
So HaShem says, "Even such a Jew, who has contracted the impurity of the
dead, who is so cut off from Yiddishkeit, from spirituality, from Torah --
even he can come back through the effort of a person who has mesirus nefesh."
It isn't easy to bring these Jews back. And the one who goes to work with this Jew
is going to have a hard time. But that is the ultimate in ahavas Yisrael:
to work, not just with those who are easy customers, but with those that are hard
customers. When it's hard -- when it's not easy going -- through
the mesirus nefesh of a fellow Jew, even those will come back.
There's another interesting detail of Parah Adumah, and that is that it's
prepared outside of the entire camp. In the camp -- as the Jewish people
lived -- there was the Mishkan (the Tabernacle), and surrounding
it the camp of the Kohanim and Levites, and surrounding them the camp of
the Israelites. These corresponded to three levels of holiness: a section of greatest
holiness, lesser holiness and even less holiness. Then there was an area called
michutz lamachaneh -- outside of the camp. This place was for the
people who had leprosy; the graves were there; this area was for impurity.
The Parah Adumah, which technically was a korban, a sacrifice,
unlike all other sacrifices was not performed in the precincts of the Mishkan;
it was done outside of all the camps. Those people who were involved in preparing
it had to go far away. Why? Why did they have to go far away, out of the camp, to
The Rebbe answers that this is to teach us that through helping a Jew in spiritual
matters, we have the power to bring back those people who are outside the camp.
Some people are in the camp -- they're more religious, less religious
-- but they're here; they count. If you ask them, "Are you Jewish?" "Of
course I'm Jewish!" "Are you a good Jew?" "I try. Sometimes I fail, but I'm part
of the Jewish people; count me in."
Then there are those who say, "Count me out. I couldn't care less; I don't want
to be a Jew; leave me out of this Jewish business, I'd rather be a citizen of the
world, an American..." You might know people like that: they're not in; they're
out of the camp. If they would take a census, and it would say "Nationality," they
would write "American" -- they wouldn't write "Jew." The same thing happens
in Israel: there are those who would write "Israeli" instead of "Jew." They don't
want to be identified as Jews. Those people are "outside the camp."
The mitzvah of Parah Adumah says: "Don't write them off. Even those
people who are outside the camp can be brought back." And because the Parah Adumah
is prepared outside the camp, that teaches us that you can reach those people. When
Mashiach comes -- and we will, G-d willing, witness this speedily
in our days -- the Jews in monasteries, in Buddhist temples, in kibbutzim,
in Minneapolis and so on, will be located and will be brought back by Mashiach.
This is the teaching of Parah Adumah. Even those who are way out of the
camp will become pure. It sounds like a dream; it doesn't sound like it's going
to happen tomorrow; but the Torah tells us that it will happen, and it can be as
soon as today, because in his essence, every Jew is still pure.
Another point about the Parah Adumah is that HaShem tells Moshe
Rabbeinu, "I want you to take the cow." What kind of honor is it for Moshe, who
is on the level of a king, to take care of a cow? It doesn't seem to be very respectable
for a person of such a lofty stature to be involved with something lowly like a
The Rebbe explains that the fact that the Torah in a few places connects Moshe
with the Parah (it's called the Parah Adumah of Moshe) teaches a Jew
that the ability he has to save another Jew, to bring another Jew back to the path
of Torah -- comes from the power of Moshe.
Because Moshe himself received the Torah from HaShem, and he was our first
Rebbe, every one of us inherited a little bit of him. With that koach of
Moshe Rabbeinu, we don't have to say, "I don't speak Hebrew so well; I'm not so
talented; I'm not so smart; I don't have all the answers." That's all baloney. You
are one of Moshe's people and with that power, you can go out to inspire and influence
I would like to mention one last point on this subject. Our Sages explain that each
time they prepared a Parah Adumah, they divided it into three parts: One
section was made to purify the people who became contaminated; the second section
was set aside to purify the Kohanim themselves. The third was saved for the
future. What does this mean?
The Rebbe explains that this alludes to the following
idea: If there are Jews around who need spiritual salvation -- and we
all know that there are plenty of such Jews -- a person might think, "You
know what? I will devote my entire day to helping these people. I'll go out and
try to inspire them, and I'll try to bring them back. I'll use all my powers (and
we know that if we work hard, we do succeed; we can get to them). I'll spend my
whole life being devoted to other people. But as far as I'm concerned, it's not
so important what I do; it's important that I help others."
The Rebbe teaches us: no matter how lofty your goal, no matter how many noble
things you are doing with your time, helping other people in the greatest of ways,
you must never forget about yourself. You have your own obligations and you have
your mitzvos that you must fulfill. And this is hinted at by the word
lemishmeres, which means that part of the ashes were saved: You have to save
part of it for yourself. You must try to be balanced; it is not balanced to totally
revolve your life about yourself. Nor is it balanced -- nor is it HaShem's
Will -- that a person devote his entire life to other people and totally
disregard his own personal divine service.
I think this is something applicable to every minute of every day. When we look
around and we see what's going on in the world, we shouldn't lift up our hands in
despair. Never despair, because every Jew will come back; and you might be the person
who was sent to help another Jew on his path.