הנגע במת לכל־נפשׁ אדם וטמא שׁבעת ימים׃
"Anyone who touches a corpse, no matter whose dead body it is, will be unclean for seven days.
(Num 19:11 CJB)
THE DICHOTOMIES OF PURITY, SUFFERING, AND SACRIFICIAL LOVE.
Do you remember these non-digital scales with a hand to show weight? Sometimes the hand goes back and forth until finds the right middle, the right balance. I have found that people often do that through their lives. There are certain issues with which they have difficulty finding the right balance, so they go back and forth between two extremes. It can happen with certain traits, but also in political tendencies and religious observance. Hopefully, as we grow older and wiser, we eventually find the right balance.
This is what being well “balanced” means, having found the right place exactly between two extremes. Extreme people are “off-balance”, off-center or “eccentric.” Some might consider it a virtue but when it comes to Torah-lifestyle, it is considered an abomination. This is what King Solomon referred to when he said,
False scales are an abomination to Adonai, but accurate weights please him. (Pro 11:1 CJB)
The whole Book of Ecclesiastes, written by King Solomon, is the story of a man who spent his life trying to find the right balance between two extreme lifestyles: serving Adoani or serving idols. He finally came down with the very important conclusion,
In my pointless life, I've seen everything -- from the righteous person perishing in his uprightness to the wicked one who lives a long life and keeps on doing wrong. So don't be overly righteous or overly wise; why should you disappoint yourself? But don't be overly wicked, and don't be foolish; why should you die before your time? Don't grasp just one of these rules; take hold of the other as well; for he who is in fear of God will live by both of them. (Ecc 7:15-18 CJB)
It is only by being well balanced, smack-dab in the middle ourselves, that we can assert proper judgment. He who is extreme to the right, thinks that he who is in the center in an extremist and vice-versa. In essence, when we are not well balanced ourselves we pervert judgment, which is something forbidden in the Torah.
" 'Do not be unjust in judging -- show neither partiality to the poor nor deference to the mighty, but with justice judge your neighbor. (Lev 19:15 CJB)
THE DICHOTOMY OF CORRECTING ONE’S WAYS.
The Parasha this weeks speaks to us a lot about righteousness being found in the balance of two extremes. Look at the laws of purifications through the Red Heifer for example.
When we read about the whole process, we realise that physical contact with biological death makes a person ceremonially unclean. To be purified, a person must be sprinkled by the ashes of the Red Heifer solution through a priest who in turn becomes impure as he performs the ritual. This represents a very clear Messianic picture of Messiah who voluntarily takes upon Himself our impurities in order to cleanse us from ours. He is the Unclean who cleanses us.
This cleansing ceremony involves the use of cedar, one of the tallest trees of the area, a tree whose wood was used to build the temple, a tree whose rot-resistant wood properties represents eternity. The ritual also uses the lowly hyssop shrub. Greatness and lowliness; eternity and temporality.
There is a lesson we can learn from all this. In order for someone to correct his ways, he must go to the other extreme. Whereas for a person without the negative traits it would be a fault to go to the extreme, but for the person in search of correction it is the right thing to do. It is a bit like correcting the direction of a car. We have to steer to the other extreme until we find the right trajectory, then adjust to the right middle.
For example, a person who is stingy should make extra efforts to be generous, to give and to share. A person who wastes time should strongly monitor their activities. A person who eats too much needs to go on a diet and monitor what they eat. A person who drinks too much alcohol needs to completely forego alcoholic drinks. All these things which may not be needed or even expedient if a person is already balanced in any of these areas, but vital for he who has difficulty finding temperance in all things. Temperance is a fruit of living by the Spirit of God and is practiced by athletes. We are athletes in the great race of this age, so we should practice temperance in all things.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23 KJV)
Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. (1Co 9:24-25 KJV)
Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. (2Pe 1:4-7 KJV)
THE DICHOTOMY OF SUFFERING.
There is another dichotomy in the parsha this week. We read about punishing snakes causing pain and suffering to the Children of Israel, but we also hear that looking at the same snake on a pole cures them from the malediction. The snake bit the people, and the image of the snake cured them. This can sound confusing, but not when we look at motivation.
There is a difference between someone punching us in the face causing the loss of a tooth and dentist removing a tooth. One is done out of hatred and anger, the other done out of love and care.
We also need to understand the dichotomy of suffering. We do not like suffering. We naturally try to avoid it. That’s why we don’t go to the dentist even though we know that we need it and that it is good for us. But what the Tanach teaches us is that suffering and trials equal good. Paul, whose mission Yeshua summed in this message delivered to him by brother Gamaliel,
"Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name to the Goyim, even to their kings, and to the sons of Isra'el as well. For I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer on account of my name." (Act 9:15-16 CJB)
Reminds us of it in,
But not only that, let us also boast in our troubles; because we know that trouble produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope; and this hope does not let us down, because God's love for us has already been poured out in our hearts through the Ruach HaKodesh who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5 CJB)
Ya’akov also, the brother of the Master reminds us of it in,
Regard it all as joy, my brothers, when you face various kinds of temptations; for you know that the testing of your trust produces perseverance. But let perseverance do its complete work; so that you may be complete and whole, lacking in nothing. (Jas 1:2-4 CJB)
So, brothers, be patient until the Lord returns. See how the farmer waits for the precious "fruit of the earth" -- he is patient over it until it receives the fall and spring rains. You too, be patient; keep up your courage; for the Lord's return is near. Don't grumble against one another, brothers, so that you won't come under condemnation -- look! the Judge is standing at the door! As an example of suffering mistreatment and being patient, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of Adonai. Look, we regard those who persevered as blessed. You have heard of the perseverance of Iyov, and you know what the purpose of Adonai was, that Adonai is very compassionate and merciful. (Jas 5:7-11 CJB)
THE DICHOTOMY OF SACRIFICIAL LOVE.
Because of the idea that in order to purify another one had to make themselves unclean, sages of Judaism have often understood that the whole notion of the parasha on the Red Heifer was summed up in,
Love your neighbor. (Lev 19:18 CJB)
This is the essence of sacrificial love, of giving above and beyond till it hurts, till it costs. As I heard it said one time, “HaShem doesn’t look at what we give but at what we’ve got left after we’re done giving! Giving doesn’t count till it costs, until it hurts!”
Rabbi and psychologist Zelig Pliskin comments on this that, “The test of your level of love for your fellow-man is the amount of sacrifices you are willing to make.”
MAY WE SHUN DARKNESS AND ITS INTEMPERATE WORKS FROM US
MAY WE WALK WORTHY OF THE CALL WHEREWITH WE HAVE BEEN CALLED
MAY WE REPRESENT OUR MASTER WELL
MAY WE WALK IN THE LIGHT AS HE IS IN THE LIGHT AND FULFILL OUR MISSION TO BE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD.
R' Gavriel Lumbroso