The following is based in part on concepts gleaned from the teaching of Rav Moshe Shapiro Shlit’a. Feel free to print this out and read it over Shabbos Kodesh, just please not during Tefilos!
The start of this week’s Parsha deals with the abstract concepts of Parah Adumah - a fully red cow that is totally burned and whose ashes are used as part of the process which overcomes Tumas Meis - a spiritual impurity contracted via contact with the dead.
The Passuk says as follows “Zos Chukas HaTorah” ‘This is the law, or more accurately, the transcendental precept of the Torah’. The Torah then goes on to describe the very detailed and elaborate procedure of the Parah Adumah.
There are two questions that we need to ask: First, the word Chukas comes from Chok which is a different type of commandment than we usually find. Most Mitzvos fall under the category of Mishpatim, these are laws that we understand, the type that make logical sense to us. Don’t steal. Don’t kill. But Para Adumah is a Chok, the type of commandment which supersedes logic and goes beyond reason. The human mind is incapable of fully determining how in this case A causes B. It goes beyond reason and sense to explain how the ashes of the Parah Adumah overpower the control of Tumas Meis. So then why is it that the solution to, the resolution of, the tool by which Tumas Meis is overcome have to be specifically through a Chok?
Secondly, The Passuk’s terminology is famously ambiguous. We are here to talk about the Parah Adumah. Therefore it would be logical for the verse to state, “Zos Chukas HaParah” ‘This is the super-rational law of the cow.’ But it doesn’t. It instead says, “Zos Chukas HaTorah.” This is the meta-logical law of the (whole) Torah. How is this at all plausible to say? We are talking about the very specific nature of the Parah Adumah, and yet we are referring to it as the Torah itself!
To answer why HaKadosh Baruch Hu defines the Parah Adumah as the Torah, we need to locate the point upon which the fundamental status of the Torah crosses paths with the truest nature of Parah Adumah. And in order to do so we need to analyze each side by itself.
The process of undergoing the purity brought about via Parah Adumah is a Me’ein, a small taste, a mini experience of Techiyas HaMeisim - the resurrection of the dead.
How is this so? Misah, death, by all logical standards, is a force that cannot be contended against. Everything in this world that is alive is subject to death. Death is an eventually insurmountable energy that forces itself upon all things that live.
Techiyas HaMeisim is the only way to overcome Misah. Anyone or anything which is taken hold by death’s inevitable grip, stays in that status until Techiyas HaMeisim will extract it from that grasp.
Tumas Meis, the impurity generated by death’s presence is the same. All impurities are resolved by a combination of immersion in ritual waters and time. The regular levels of Tumah (impurity) are subject to negation at the hands of standard procedures. On the other hand, Tumas Meis’s clench on a person resembles that of its source in death itself. Just like Misa is an energy that cannot be terminated by normal means, so too Tumas Meis cannot be terminated by normal means. And therefore just as it is only Techiyas HaMeisim that overcomes Misah, it must be that something intrinsically like it will overcome Tumas Meis.
But the question is, how is Parah Adumah like Techiyas HaMeisim? For this we need to delve into the next level of the questions we asked: Why is the Parah Adumah addressed as the whole Torah, and what does the Torah HaKedosha have to do with Techiyas HaMeisim?
The Gemara in Sanhedrin, in Perek Cheilek talks about B’Arichus (goes on for great length) how he who doesn’t believe that Techiyas HaMeisim is rooted in the Torah has no portion in the World to Come. The discussion there goes on and on offering scriptural references to the Resurrection.
This is truly unique. As we know, there are thirteen Ikarei Emunah - Principles of Faith - that are requisites of every Jew to believe in. (For example – Existence of God [Principle #1], Reward and Punishment [#11], the Coming of the Messiah [#12].) All of these Ikarim are fundamental concepts that we need to approach Judaism correctly. But it is not required that one believe that there are scriptural sources for them. There is no Passuk that obligates faith in the fact that it is only fitting to serve Hashem and no other imaginary deity [#5]. And yet we see that simple belief in Techiyas HaMeisim is not enough. Comes the Gemara and says that the belief must be that there is a reality of Techiyas HaMeisim, and it is in the Torah. Why does this have to be the case?
Like we mentioned before, death is an energy to which no living thing is impervious. It will bare down on everything. Therefore, how can one eventually overcome death? It must be through something that is an exception to the rule. It must be via a connection to something not subject to death.
A seed rots. Rotting is a type of death. It is not a total loss of life, but there is decay nonetheless. But it is specifically through this that something bigger and more potent and alive comes about. If it were not for the rotting of the seed then there would be no eventual tree.
Eitz Chayim Hi LaMachazikim Ba - the Torah is a Tree of Life. It is not subject to the force we call death. The seed microcosmically, and the Torah macrocosmically are beyond decay.
How is it that the Torah is beyond death? The mystical sources tell us that HaKadosh Baruch Hu used the Torah to create the world. If the Torah was used to create the world that means that by its very nature it is beyond the world, it precedes it. The Torah is part of a different reality than this world. Death, as we learn in Bereishis was a direct result of the sin by the tree of knowledge. Death was not part of the original plan. It is a creation from within this level existence. But, if a connection can be made to something that is relevant to an existence above and beyond this world then death can be avoided.
It is for this reason that we say in our prayers about the Torah, “V’Chayei Olam Nata B’Socheinu” And you planted within us eternal life. By giving us the Torah, we are given a peek into a universe beyond the reality of death.
If the only connection we have to the surpassing of death comes from the Eitz Chayim, then if one doesn’t believe that Techiyas HaMeisim is rooted in the Torah he inherently doesn’t believe in the essential go-power that makes Techiyas HaMeisim work! Take the Torah away as the basis of belief in Techiyas HaMeisim and you are left with no floor for belief in Techiyas HaMeisim to stand on at all!
And which parts of the Torah are least subject to this world? The ones that remain outside of human intellect – the Chukim. It is specifically the Chok which is most outside of this world, and thereby most connected to a reality beyond death.
This is how we can understand the whole subject of Parah Adumah. “Zos Chukas HaTorah” ‘This is the transcendental precept of the Torah.’ The part of the process of Parah Adumah that overcomes Tumas Meis has very little to do with the fact that it’s a red cow and everything to do with the fact that it is a Chok of the Torah. Relating the Parah Adumah to the nature of the Torah as a whole, and more specifically through the element of Chok gives it the Techiyas HaMeisim energy that it needs to overcome Tumas Meis.
The inspiration to be take from these concept is easily taken. When I am Osek the Torah HaKedosha, when I involve myself in God’s will, when I connect my being to the Divine Masterplan, I attach myself to life in the purest, most untaintable form. When I become adjoined to Ratzon Hashem I’m stepping outside a universe which is tainted with death-relevancy and I enter a space that if fully, vibrantly alive. ”V’Atem HaDveikim Ba’Hashem – Chayim Kulchem HaYom!” ‘And you - those who are connecting to Hashem - right now, in this moment of bonding - you all are fully alive.”
HaKadosh Baruch Hu should give us the inspiration to live like this. To be in this world and simultaneously be connected to a reality that is above it. If we can do this – if we can live in the greater context of Avodas Hashem - there is no doubt that we will live lives of Shleimus and Simcha moving closer to the Chei HaOlamim (Hashem, the lifeline of the universe) and eventually the Geulah Sheleimah!