Tidbits of Torah
Shabbat Parashat Ki Tissa
March 2, 2013 – 20 Adar 5773
Another special Shabbat awaits us; a Shabbat that turns our attention to two animals – the red heifer and the golden calf…!
This week, on Shabbat Parah, the third of four special Shabbatot that lead up to Passover, we read a special maftir which refers to the ritual of the red heifer.
Designed to spiritually purify those of us who come in close contact with the death of a human being, this ritual has perplexed Jews and Jewish scholars throughout the ages.
How can sprinkling a few drops of a mixture which contains ashes of a red heifer on a person bring about that person’s spiritual purification in the face of death? And, why does the person who does the sprinkling become spiritually impure?
Of course, one could ask the same question of many rituals we perform in life. Rituals don’t always have a logical explanation. Yet, they help us to confront complex situations. They give us direction when we are spiritually at a loss to comprehend that which has happened.
Reminding ourselves of the red heifer ritual, helps us to put into perspective the various rituals we still embrace as part of our upcoming Passover celebration – rituals that help us to focus on the significance of Passover, in ancient times and now.
Our weekly Torah Portion of Ki Tissa tells of the sin of the golden calf. How quickly after the miraculous Exodus from Egypt did our people manage to forget the significance of worshiping God and revert to creating an idol as a spiritual crutch?
But, are we spiritually that much stronger than our ancestors were?
It is so easy for us to slip into modern forms of idol worship – to rely on the comfort offered by physical objects or by material creations and acquisitions when our world seems to have been turned upside down.
The sin of the golden calf is emblematic of the human tendency to lean on the physical rather than on God.
The red heifer reminds us that we can be there for one another even when we loose our spiritual moorings, even when we mourn the loss of a loved one.
Ki Tissa (with the golden calf) and Shabbat Parah (with the red heifer), remind us that we can help one another find our way back to God and to the values of Torah.
This special Shabbat reminds us that we can help one another return to love of life and to appreciation of the gift of life. That is ultimately what Passover is all about. On Passover, we will celebrate love of life, love of liberty, and love of the responsibility that goes it. And, the rituals that we will observe remind us of the spiritual wealth of our religious tradition – a tradition that puts life, not death, at the center of our awareness.
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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