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You Are Special!This week we read Parshas Chukas which details the laws of spiritual defilement called Tuma. The parsha begins by specifiying the laws of the Para Aduma – the red heifer, from whose ashes were made the holy water to sprinkle on someone who became spiritually defiled with what is called tumas meis – defilement from a dead body.
The Ohr Hachaim asks why the laws of the Para Aduma are called Chukas Hatorah? These laws aren’t relevant to the Torah specifically. They are merely the laws of Tuma. The possuk should have read Chukas Hatuma. Moreover, Torah cannot become Tomei. Even one who is tomei (spiritually defiled through contact with a corpse) can learn Torah. His tuma does not deter his ability to learn or cause any limitations in Torah.
Therefore, the Ohr Hachaim writes that this seemingly innocuous phrase, Chukas Hatorah, is hinting at a very important principle. Chazal tell us (Nazir 61b, Rambam Hil. Tumas Meis Chap. 1, Hal 13) that the laws of tumah do not apply to a goy. He can touch a dead body the whole day, and live in a house where there is a dead body, and he will never become tamei. He is like an animal that touches a dead body. Nothing special happens.
Only a Jew can become tamei, not a goy. What makes a Jew different? We received the Torah and tasted the sweet honey of Divine Heavenly Words. This is the Chukas Hatorah, meaning it all emanates from the Torah.
The world was created from the Holy spiritual realms. There is natural sanctity in Creation. But in conjunction with holiness (kedusha) Hashem created the opposite, tumah, or spiritual defilement. There are hordes of black forces and lowly creatures that are cut off from kedusha and exist in spiritual defilement. The Kabbalists call them klipos. These forces of tumah hunger for some kedusha to consume because they live in darkness and find sustenance only from kedusha. But the forces of kedusha naturally repulse them. So there is a constant struggle. The more holy the object is, the more they swarm around it trying to capture it and bring it into their defiled realm.
By receiving the Torah, Bnei Yisrael became elevated and holy. Now all the spiritually impure klipos desire to attach themselves to us. (That’s why frum Jews have such a hard struggle with their yetzer hora – the king of the klipos – which lusts to drag him down.) These lowly creatures live in darkness with no spiritual connection and want desperately to attach themselves to kedusha which becomes their food. While alive a Jew is holy. He has a certain ability (like antibodies) to repulse these impure creatures. But when a Jew dies, his holy neshama departs, and all of a sudden hordes of these defiled creatures attack the body like flies swarming around a dead carcass. This is specifically a Jewish body, because it once housed a holy neshama. A goy never had the holiness of Torah within himself, and so when he dies, the body does not acquire severe tumas meis like a Jewish body. Therefore, when a Jew comes into contact with a Jewish corpse, he now has contact with severe tumah, and he becomes tamei meis.
The Ohr Hachaim compares this to a jar of honey and a jar of waste left outside. Yes, the jar of waste will attract all sorts of flies and creepy crawling critters. But the jar of honey will be totally covered with them. Its sweetness is much more attractive to these hordes of pests. Therefore specifically a Jewish body, which once housed a sweet holy soul, attracts these forces of tumah after ones demise.
These holy and ethereal concepts go unnoticed by most of us. Kedusha and tumah are real, but one cannot naturally sense them without proper training and developing a special awareness of the spiritual realm. A Jew, even an Orthodox Jew, can go through his whole life unaware of his elevated position in the scheme of things. He has within himself a holy neshama which sets him apart from the nations of the world, and he is connected to the Torah, which is an expression of G-d’s Mind. We don’t realize how special we are.
We go to Yeshiva or Seminary or Jewish Schools and we learn all about how to be Jewish. But we never learn to appreciate being Jewish.
Last year I told you a story that happened about 30 years ago about an adopted boy learning in Lakewood who found out he was adopted. Around the same time a similar story happened in Ponevich in Eretz Yisroel. There was a bochur learning in the Beis Medrash, a very good bochur, whose mother was a convert – a giyores. When he turned 23 he started shidduchim. Of course everyone started making inquiries so he had to check out the status of his mother to please all the prospective matches. It came out that his mother had originally converted reform, and had a baby. Afterwards she had an Orthodox conversion. He was the oldest of the siblings, so he was born before the kosher conversion. The reform conversion had absolutely no validity, so he was a bona fide goy. The Rosh Yeshiva called him in and explained the situation to him. He told him, really there’s no problem. We’ll do another conversion. The only difference will be that you’ll be a real Ger, instead of the son of a Ger. The Rosh Yeshiva wasn’t ready for what came next. The bochur said no. “Why should I be Jewish? That so hard. I can be a kosher goy, a Ben Noach, and be a tzaddik. It’s much easier to be a tzaddik Ben Noach than a Tzaddik of a Jew.” So he took off his yarmulke and left.
The Rosh Yeshiva, the Mashgiach, the Rebbeim were shocked. But even worse, they were devastated. Here was a very fine bochur, a talmid chochom, who davened with kavana, a baal midos tovos. And the first chance he gets to leave, he runs out the door. How many more bochurim are there in the yeshiva who are simply STUCK?!
We go through life as kosher Yidden. We eat the most kosher Glatt food. We daven in the most frum shul, and have the best Rav. Our kids go to the best yeshivas and Beis Yaakovs. We’re frum! But…… Do we know why we’re frum? Do we appreciate that we’re Yidden. Do we feel proud we’re Jewish. If we were given the opportunity to opt out and leave what would we do? (Don’t answer that question.)
Zos Chukas HaTorah. Only Jews have the laws of tumah because of our holy neshamos. We are connected to the Torah, and so all the forces of evil, all the klipos, are out there trying to trip us up. We have to make it our business not only to learn how to be frummer Yidden, we have to learn why we are frummer Yidden and appreciate our Yiddishkeit!
Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network