Photo Credit: Hana Levi Julian
Ancient mikvah (pool for ritual purity) from Second Temple era, uncovered at Qumran, overlooking northwestern shore of the Dead Sea

Teaching a bigger Torah would not only succeed in bringing back more disconnected Jews but also in advancing the Hebrew mission of illuminating the world with the light of HaShem’s Truth.

“For thirty-three days she shall stay in blood of purity; she may not touch anything sacred and she may not enter the Sanctuary, until the completion of her days of purity.” (Vayikra 12:4)


Through the miracle of childbirth, human beings are able to reach a level of partnership with HaShem. Man and woman join to conceive a new life, which then receives a soul from the Kadosh Barukh Hu. And nine months later a child enters the world. But when born, this new life causes a spiritual impurity and contamination period for its mother, teaching us that the mere existence of life is not sufficient. Life derives its true value and meaning as a tool to be used in the service of the Divine.

“Upon the completion of the days of her purity for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring a sheep within its first year for an olah-offering, and a young dove or a turtledove for a sin-offering, to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, to the Kohen. He shall offer it before HaShem and atone for her, and she shall become purified from the source of her blood; this is the law for one who gives birth to a male or to a female.” (Vayikra 12:6-7)

After the mother completes her period of contamination, she begins a cleansing process, purifying herself and then bringing a korban. Only then is she able to consume t’ruma or meat from an offering.

The fact that merely cleansing herself is not sufficient for the mother to reach a true state of purity teaches that the sheer absence of contamination is not yet the fulfillment of Israel’s mission in this world. Our aspirations must rise beyond the mere elimination of the negative. Just as the mother brings a korban to the Temple, Israel must strive for positive achievement.

Internalizing this concept is crucial for a proper understanding of Divine service. Because so many Jews abandoned our Torah in recent generations, Israel’s collective goal became warped in many circles. The Hebrew mission of elevating existence and revealing HaShem’s Oneness to mankind was put on hold while the goal of the pious became limited to merely remaining ritually observant or working to reintroduce wayward Jews back to a Torah lifestyle.

While it is true that the expression of the Divine Ideal in this world requires the Jewish people to live in accordance with our Torah, many have regrettably forgotten about Israel’s larger goals.

As a result of personal piety becoming the supposed goal of Jewish life, many communities developed a policy of sheltering their youth from anything outside of their ghettoized Judaism. Thus was created a Torah of weakness that cowed from the outside world. Instead of going out to engage, revolutionize and sanctify the world, the Torah for many people became a protective wall with which to take shelter from foreign influences. Societal fences were erected in order to keep young Jews from leaving the house of study and becoming corrupted by what lurked outside its walls, causing the Torah to mistakenly appear to many as if its role was to suppress life rather than uplift it.

This distorted Judaism stands in stark contrast to the mission of Am Yisrael. While it is obviously dangerous to expose vulnerable children to a less than perfect world, Torah education should focus on strengthening and fortifying the Hebrew youth in order that they should be capable of effectively resisting contaminating foreign influences. Jews are not required to hide from heresy but rather to engage and defeat it in order to bring humankind to the awareness of HaShem. Instead of taking cover from evil, Israel must confront and eradicate it from our world.

The nation of Israel can no longer afford to view ourselves as weak – a view that cripples the Torah and creates a culture of fear. In truth, a fuller and more idealistic Torah would succeed in attracting more Jews back to our path, many of whom are unimpressed by the exilic distortion that justifiably appears to them as archaic and devoid of life. Even efforts to bring disconnected Jews back to the Torah can be elevated to more successful heights on a national level, drawing our people back to their authentic culture when exposed to the goals of universal redemption.

Israel must return to a healthy and passionate Torah of idealism – a Torah of action that calls upon our people to strive for positive achievement. By infusing our youth with the Torah of redemption – a proud Torah of love, courage and self-sacrifice – Israel’s teachers would become infinitely more successful at not only inspiring their students and engaging disconnected Jews, but also in advancing the broader Hebrew mission of illuminating the world with the light of HaShem’s Truth.

Published in Vision Magazine.

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Rav Yehuda HaKohen is an organizer and educator living in northern Judea. As a leader in the Vision movement, he works to empower students and young professionals to become active participants in the current chapter of Jewish history.