Food For the Soul
Confronting the Heifer
In the Parshah Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1) Moses is taught the law of the red heifer. This law is the most mysterious law of the Torah. Somehow, the red heifer would purify one who contracted the most severe form of ritual impurity, that of coming in contact with a human corpse.
Chassidic philosophy explains that the red heifer captures the secret of the uniquely Jewish approach to purifying the negativity within each of us. It is the key to dealing with our inner passions, which overwhelm us with the force of their energy.
Purity is not achieved by suppressing or waging war against desire. The Torah teaches us to look right at the passionate, forceful red heifer. Look at its core and understand that the red heifer is not negative, nor is it spiritually neutral. The Torah wants us to understand that the heifer can be the most powerful agent of purity in our life. The power of desire, its incredible force and energy, is not evil. For while the external expression of the desire may be negative and must be burned, the ashes of the heifer, its inner essence, is the source of purity. When the ashes are mixed into the “living waters,” when the power of desire is directed toward a positive goal, the heifer itself will be an unbridled force that will provide spiritual and emotional purity.
From an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman
Upcoming Holiday: The Three Weeks (July 16 to August 7)
The Three Weeks is an annual mourning period that falls out in the summer. This is when we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple and our launch into a still-ongoing exile. With an eye to the future, we also learn about the Third Temple, which is yet to be built.
The period begins on the 17th day of the Hebrew month of Tamuz, a fast day that marks the day when the walls of Jerusalem were breached by the Romans in 69 CE. It reaches its climax and concludes with the fast of the 9th of Av, the date when both Holy Temples were set aflame. This is the saddest day of the Jewish calendar, and it is also the date that many other tragedies befell our people.
Read about Tisha B’Av and The Three Weeks at Chabad.org.
Mind Over Matter
Thoughts Channel Emotions
Our Torah tells you that you must not fear. Even if an army is charging towards you, you must not fear. For there is no danger worse than fear.
But you are only human. Do you truly have control over the dread and panic pounding in your heart? Yes. Not directly, but through the power of your mind. If you will choose not to dwell on those things that instill panic and dread, those emotions will wither and fade.
And the choice is yours. What do you want to speak about? What do you want to think about?
For the thoughts of your mind are the conduit of life for the emotions of your heart.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“This is the Torah’s decree… have them bring you a completely red heifer which has no blemish…” Chukat 19:2ff.
Maimonides cites a Mishnah with the following words: “Nine ‘red heifers’ were prepared from the time this precept was ordained until the Second Temple was destroyed: the first was prepared by Moses our Master, the second Ezra prepared, and there were seven from Ezra to the destruction of the Temple. The tenth will be prepared by King Moshiach-may he soon be revealed, amen, may thus be (G-d’s) Will!” (Hilchot Parah Adumah 3:4)
Our present mitzvot can make this happen momentarily!
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Spread the Love
I overheard a discussion. One woman was complaining about her teenage son’s aggravating behavior. “Sometimes, I could just kill him!” She vented. Unbeknownst to her, the other woman was in the middle of chemotherapy treatment for her own son to fight his life-threatening illness. I observed her tense up at the choice of words. Calmly, she replied: “Kids will be kids. But beneath it all, we love them so much that we would do anything to keep them healthy—even with their irritating antics.”[The Parshah Chukat] speaks of the death of Moses’s brother, Aaron. “The entire Israel wept for Aaron for thirty days.” (Numbers 20:29). The entire nation mourned Aaron’s death because he was so beloved to them. The Midrash (Avos d’Rabbi Nosson 12:3) explains that he worked hard at restoring peace between quarrelling friends or spouses.
Aaron would approach each of the disagreeing individuals separately and soften them by saying, “Your friend/spouse is utterly embarrassed over what he did to you! He wishes you would be reconciled.” When the two would later meet, they would be ready to overlook their differences and re-establish their relationship. We are permitted to modify the truth for the sake of peace, but on face value, it seems like Aaron was actually saying a complete lie, which is not permitted.
But in truth, Aaron’s words were not inherently false (Sichos Kodesh, 5741). To love our fellow is a cardinal mitzvah of the Torah, which we all want to fulfill. While on the outside, these friends or spouses were angry with each other, Aaron was able to help them dig a little deeper to expose their true feelings and wishes.
In the first talk that the [Lubavitcher] Rebbe delivered on his official acceptance of leadership, he articulated what would become his mission statement. He spoke about love of one’s fellow human being, as well as the interrelation between loving G-d and loving His children. “A person who loves G-d will eventually come to love what G-d loves—all His children. And his love will drive him to wish to bring G-d’s children close to Torah—because that’s what G-d loves.”
There are times that circumstances create barriers between us. Due to the many pressures in our lives, we may sometimes act selfishly or insensitively, or respond angrily or unkindly. But deep down, that’s not really who we are or wish to be.
Loving our fellow means stripping away those external barriers that divide us to find the deepest bonds that connect us. Because, despite irritating antics or behaviors, that love is what is truly real.
From an article by Chana Weinberg