FROM THE RABBI’S DESK – KI TISA-PARAH:
The correlation between the parsha of Ki Tisa and the special reading of Parah is not simply an arbitrary determination of the Jewish calendar. Ki Tisa, which deals primarily with the Golden Calf incident and its aftermath, and Parah, which concentrates on the mysterious procedure involving the ashes of the Red Heifer, are interrelated.
The Talmud states that the mother, referring to the heifer, should clean up after the filth of the daughter, the Golden Calf. Apparently, as the Kli Yakar writes, with the fallout of the Golden Calf incident, tumah, mistranslated as impurity of the highest kind, enters into the Jewish community necessitating the ashes of the Red Heifer to be used to purify those who coming in contact with a dead body.
Unlike ancient philosophers who deal with the issues of mind v. body, and theologies that denigrate the human form, Judaism recognizes the confluence of both mind and body as necessary mechanisms in observing G-d’s mitzvoth. On the positive side of the leger, thought has to be coupled with physical action in order for a mitzvah to be considered as completely fulfilled. On the negative side, thought coupled with action have to be necessary ingredients for transgressions to be committed. While there are obviously mitzvoth such as the belief in G-d that do not require concomitant action, and conversely, sins such as belief in idolatry that do not demand physical worship, the majority of activities in Judaism is predicated on the combination of thought and process.
The mitzvah of Parah Adumah reflects on the interfacing of mind and body. Tumah is a state of being, and a state of mind. The ashes of the heifer and the waters of the Mikvah contribute to the spiritual enhancement of the individual unlike the embers of the Golden Calf that completely defiles the population that worships it. The Golden Calf introduces an element of impurity of thought and a defilement of the body.
There is no doubt that the study of this difficult area of Jewish law called Taharot can only be mastered by the talented few. But the message of this sixth order of the Mishna enables us to gain an appreciation of the gifts of mind and body that G-d has given us.