Israel Forever

For the week ending 2 April 2005 / 22 Adar II 5765

Holy Cow

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
Library Library Library

A basic principle in correcting any situation is to go back to the source of the problem. This is especially true when it comes to the spiritual rehabilitation of atonement for sin.

In the special Torah reading this Shabbat of Parshat Para, which we will hear in the synagogue along with the regular weekly portion, we learn of the ritual connected with the red heifer. Our Sages saw in the slaughtering and burning of this animal not only a preparation of the ashes to be used in purifying a Jew from the spiritual contamination arising from contact with the dead, but also a form of sacrifice to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf.

They compare this to the situation of the little son of a royal maid who dirtied the palace of the king. The maid was commanded to clean up the mess her child made. In similar fashion the heifer is called upon to atone for the sin of the calf.

The child who dirties the palace casts blame on a negligent mother. In correcting the mistake of the Golden Calf it was also necessary to go back to the source, biologically represented by its mother but ideologically expressed in a lack of self-control.

Much is being discussed in academic circles and in the media about the violence in Israels schools and society. The solutions being proposed are hardly more than band-aids. Parshat Para should serve as a lesson in going back to the source of the problem. When there is a lack of discipline in regard to the laws given by G-d to the Jewish People, we can hardly expect a respect for the laws of the land and for the rights of others. Only by applying the lesson of the "Holy Cow" can we guarantee the physical and spiritual well-being of Israel forever.

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