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Parshas Parah Purifies


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Before we begin, please say the title ten times fast. Hard to accomplish, right? Chazal do say that one should begin a dvar Torah with a milei d’bidichusa, a light-headed exercise.

Now, let’s get down to business. We are in the midst of the Daled Parshiyos, the four separate sections of Torah we read as maftir during the months of Adar and Nissan. What is the purpose in reading these parshiyos? For sure, there is a specific reason for the reading of each one, but is there any progression, is there a step-by-step growth process taking place? Rav Gedalya Schorr, in Ohr Gedalyahu, says that indeed there is.

Parshas Shekalim creates unity among the Jewish people, with each one giving a half-shekel to the common cause: the building of the Mishkan, the bringing of korbanos, and national atonement. This unity evokes the power of love within each of us and when we access this ahavah, this love, we are driven to eliminate the evil around us – allowing us to remember and wipe out Amalek as commanded in Parshas Zachor. However, by removing the evil, by using our hands to separate the good from the bad, similar to the melacha of borer, we inevitably come into contact with impurity.  This requires that we purify ourselves with the ashes of the red cow, the para adumah. How is this purification accomplished? Through the sprinkling of the ashes, which signifies that the only way a person can purify himself is by nullifying himself, by making himself likes ashes. Once we have established purity we can start anew, and be mechadesh ourselves with Parshas HaChodesh.

These four steps are a progression toward Pesach, toward the Yom Tov of teshuva m’ahava, of returning to Hashem out of love.  As the Bnei Yissaschar writes, there are always thirty days between Purim and Pesach, because there are thirty gates of impurity we need to traverse. Because we are steeped in sin and slaves to our yetzer hara, Hashem removes one gate of impurity each day beginning with Purim.  It is on Pesach that we are freed from the bondage of the yetzer hara.

Why are there thirty gates? There are 720 hours in 30 days, which is the gematria of Amalek multiplied 3 times. We counter the power of Amalek at this time with Hashem’s kindness. Hashem releases His chesed during these 30 days and draws us closer to him. The gematria of chesed is 72, and the fullest extent of chesed utilizes the ten sefiros, the ten attributes of Hashem. Of course, 72 multiplied by ten equals 720. Every hour of the 30-day period, is full of Hashem’s graciousness toward us.

We respond by reading the four parshiyos, by working on ourselves to remove our connection to evil and purifying ourselves. Nesivos Shalom explains that we read these parshiyos specifically on Shabbos, although Shekalim could have been read on the first day of Adar, Zachor could be read on Purim, and Chodesh on the first of Nissan – seemingly all more appropriate times. But we read them on Shabbos because it is the day on which we express our love for Hashem most powerfully. All four parshiyos are read with the goal of increasing our attachment, our dveykus to Hashem. Shabbos is the key to opening up all levels of kedusha and these four parshiyos can sanctity us for the entire year.

So, yes, Parshas Parah purifies. When we read it, when we learn it, it is as if the ashes of the parah adumah are actually being sprinkled on us.  We are being purified! Chazal tell us that when you learn about korbanos it is as if you brought a korban, and this is what we must have in mind when we read and hear Parshas Parah, says the Nesivos Shalom.

We read in the haftarah for Parshas Parah (Yechezkel 36:25) that Hashem will redeem us and sprinkle pure waters upon us. The Mishna Berura (685:1) says that as we read these words we should daven that Hashem do this very soon. The Yesod VeShoresh Ha’Avodah (Shaar 12, end of perek 7) says that as we read the haftarah we should express tremendous gratitude to Hashem for consoling us from the terrible pain of exile with the words of Yechezkel. He says we should have special feeling when reaching the verse (36:26) which describes that Hashem will give us a “lev chadash, a new heart,” one without any sense of rebellion toward Him, and that He will place His own “Spirit” within us, which will help us nullify our selfish desires and interests. We will finally be the people we are supposed to be! One could easily be moved to tears when truly connecting to this pasuk, he writes. Rav Eliyahu Wolf’s sefer on the haftaros (from where the sources in this paragraph are derived) writes that when Rav Elchonon Wasserman would listen to this pasuk during the haftarah for Parah, he would indeed cry.

While our purpose in this world is to use our free will to choose good, to overcome our tests and challenges, part of that choosing should include a deep wish that we wouldn’t even have the ability to sin. This is what we say every morning in the last bracha of Birchas haShachar. We pray that Hashem should force our evil inclination to be subordinate to Hashem, vechof es yitzreinu l’hishtabed lach. So, if we truly mean what we say in our tefillos, then reading this pasuk in the haftarah should truly bring us to tears, just as did Rav Elchonon,

And these are some of the happenings in this week’s haftarah.

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