The week's reading opens, "This is the statute of the Torah which G‑d commanded..." (Num. 19:2) and then goes on to describe the laws of the Red Heifer and the purification process from defilement incurred through contact with the dead. This mitzvah is the classic supra-rational command.

Rashi explains that the specific wording in the verse addresses the taunts of the Adversary and the Nations of the World who question us regarding the reason for this mitzvah. "This is the statute" answers that the Red Heifer is a divine decree that cannot be comprehended. Rebbe Yechiel Michel notes that there is, in fact, a known Midrashic explanation for the Red Heifer: Just as a mother must clean the mess of her child, so, too, this heifer comes to repair the damage done through the sin of her child, the Golden Calf. When scoffers approach the Jews asking about the heifer, they are actually intending to remind us of our transgression. This is what the verse answers them: "This is a statute...which G‑d commanded" and there is no reason for it. Nevertheless, we must remind ourselves that we must still improve our relationship to G‑d.

Mitzvot connect us to G‑d, eliciting positive spiritual energy….

The mitzvah of the Red Heifer is connected to the Redemption. Exile causes "impurity" on a spiritual plane, impeding the proper service of G‑d. This impurity comes from our sins. The difference between mitzvot and sins is that mitzvot connect us to G‑d, eliciting positive spiritual energy; sins, on the other hand, occlude this spiritual channel to G‑d. This lack of spiritual connection leads to the spiritual impurity of the exile. The ashes of the Red Heifer and the Redemption both purify the Jewish people. Sprinkling the ashes of the red heifer on a defiled person purified him, enabling him to enter the sanctuary. The Redemption purifies everyone, even those who are technically impure, from even a hint of alienation from our Father in Heaven. The prophet Ezekiel used the analogy of the red heifer when speaking about the Final Redemption: "And I will throw upon you pure waters and purify your impurities." (Ezekiel 36:25)

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This portion is read in proximity to the 3rd of Tammuz, the anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. During his final years, he often challenged us, asking: What have we done until now to hasten the redemption? He would exhort his disciples:

A person must ponder when the last time was that he honestly thought about Mashiach in a way that was personally meaningful; that all of the above is truly referring to him and not to someone else; that, through Mashiach, the Holy One Blessed Be He is about to take him out of this exile and he himself, with Mashiach, will go to the Land of Israel! Each person should seclude himself to a place where he will be alone and there make a true account.

Doing so will lead us to thoughts of returning to G‑d. Through this we can bring the Final Redemption immediately, since these sincere thoughts will bring us, and the whole world, merit in the eyes of Heaven, and thereby precipitate the Redemption. If we accept upon ourselves to serve as "illuminators", to lead and to enlighten all of those around us, then through our shining forth with the "candle of the mitzvot and the light of the Torah" (Proverbs 6:23), we will dispel the darkness of exile and bring the light of the Redemption. This must be undertaken with genuine effort and self-sacrifice.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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