Does It Really Matter?

Adar (2) 22, 5782
March 25, 2022
Candlelighting Time 6:59 PM

            We are now in a period of transition between Purim and Pesach. This week we will read the parsha in the Torah that discusses the Red Heifer. A cow that is completely red without exception and its burnt ashes are thrown upon those who have become defiled through contact with a corpse. They are unable to bring the Pesach offering until they are purified with its ashes. This is the beginning of our preparation for the upcoming Yom Tov of Pesach. However, one might wonder if this is so pertinent. After all, how many people were really defiled in that manner before Pesach and needed that purification process? Furthermore, aren’t there many more important laws we should be well-versed in before Pesach such as matzah baking, how to conduct a seder, what constitutes chametz-unleavened bread? Pesach is one of the most complex holidays on the calendar, yet we are concerned about those who have become defiled?

           S’fas Emes explains that the Red Heifer mitzvah is an atonement for the Golden Calf ignominy. Furthermore, the influence of Amalek, our nemesis, was also a factor in that tragedy. The question is though, what is the connection between the Golden Calf debacle and our ongoing conflict with Amalek and how does the Red Heifer atone for the Golden Calf calamity?

            First and foremost, we must understand what is the fundamental deficiency of a corpse that causes defilement? S’fas Emes explains that the lack of life, vigor and enthusiasm is the basis for that debasement. An integral tenet of our service to Hashem is dedication to absolute conformity to fulfillment of Hashem’s will. That devotion requires a steadfast buoyance of spirit that is constantly engaged and riveted for that higher purpose which is study of Torah and performance of mitzvos. One whose spiritual perceptions are deadened by indulgence in the material affairs of this world is unable to focus intently on his spiritual growth and enhancement. As a result, that advancement is stunted and impeded causing a lack of interest and appeal in those matters. That is the essence of the lesson from the contamination of interaction with a corpse and its subsequent purification through the Red Heifer. The essence of the animal is eliminated and all that remains is the ashes, a mere oblivion, reminiscent of the void that corporal pursuits lead us to.

            Amalek is defined as an absolute resistant and antagonistic dominion seeking to rout our allegiance to Hashem and ignore His supremacy. Amalek, descendants of Eisav, the epitome of immoderation and emphasis on excess carnal hedonism and self-gratification. That state of mind flouts ardor and passion for study of Torah and performance of mitzvos. When Moshe, the icon of total immersion in Torah was absent from the camp, Amalek was able to infiltrate into the minds of the nation and due to the additional seduction of outside elements that had joined our people from Egypt, they were induced to construct the Golden Calf, symbolizing our indifference to Moshe, our true leader and connector to Hashem. The Red Heifer atones for the Golden Calf catastrophe clearly displaying our full dedication to that which is eternal, not the temporal depravities of life that beckon us so temptingly. Pesach is around the corner when we rid ourselves literally of unleavened bread and conceptually of the evil which is so prevalent in our lives and in the world at large.    


Nadav and Avihu, Aharon’s two sons were righteous individuals on a level beyond our comprehension. Their devoutness was also well beyond the level of permissible interaction between a person and Hashem. And that perhaps created their error as they exceeded the limits of what one is allowed to do and attempted to reach a proximity to Hashem not ordained by the Torah. Our responsibility is to observe Hashem’s will not to supersede it.                                                                                S’FAS EMES