First of all, Happy Fourth of July everyone! Yes, I am an equal opportunist; since you had to tolerate my Canadian pride earlier in the week, the least I can do is tip my hat to all you Americans.
Down to business. You know, Parshah Chukat is amazing; it's full of so many incidents that each carry a heap of lessons. But every year, for whatever reason, I always focus most on the Parah Adumah. I mean, even Shlomo HaMelech couldn't figure it out, and he knew Torah better than Moishe Rabbeinu. How awesome is that? Anyway, I had several "ideas" about why the heifer both purifies and contaminates.
Would it be conceited of me to post a few? Our Torah sages have been stumped and have only had certain elements elucidated for them, so why would my little thoughts be anything but worse than what Our Sages have already stated, I say. Then again, I'm sure that whatever I do say is simply a rehash of what Our Sage have said...Since it has been on my mind all week though, and I need a tidbit to say to my husband over dinner tonight, I will give a brief summary of some of the things I've been mulling over.
Since in this world duelling forces co-exist, it makes "sense" that an item and a ritual that purify are the result of an item and a ritual that produce contamination. Any heifer carcass would produce contamination, so why not the parah adumah's when it is prepared? Moreover, it is no wonder that while being purified, the person who is purifying the contaminated person becomes contaminated as well. We see by the very juxtaposition of the ritual of the parah adumah with descriptions of ways that one becomes contaminated that Hashem always creates both a situation and an antidote. Why then should the antidote not carry consequences for the purifier as well as the contaminated party? When purifying, the purifier comes into contact with tumah and consequently becomes contaminated until evening. We see the same process on Yom Kippur, with the goat sent to Azazel.
In this world, contamination of one easily impacts us all; the physical, spiritual, and emotional elements of life on this earth are inextricably intertwined, as are we all. Contamination, while a physical state, is also a spiritual state, and there are degrees, as with anything else: a tzaddik, for example, is at a higher degree of spirituality than myself or any other Ben Oni. The same goes for other spiritual states as well. When a wife becomes niddah, does her separation not contaminate her husband? How so, you might ask? Because the physical separation from his wife causes shifts in his emotional and spiritual being as well, since his soul and her soul are intertwined. By the same token, a person contaminated by the dead is impacted emotionally, spiritually, and physically. And as we see by the incidents of the striking of the rock and the death of Aharon HaKohain, the loss of one yid impacts us all and changes the dynamic of us as a people. Thus, when our brother becomes contaminated through death, the impact is felt around him. By extension, the purification process necessitates that one yid "sacrifices" himself for the benefit of his fellow, to transfer some of his "purity" to the impure person.
In other words, the purifier consequently takes the spiritual demotion in order to elevate the contaminated party. Since we are all intertwined as a people, it would be foolish to believe that one yid's suffering is unrelated to our life. To return to the concept of duelling forces, we can see how when one yid is up, another is down, and it is only by Hashem's current calculation of us that we are in the same boat as the one yid or the other. When we contemplate that reality then, we see how powerful the parah adumah really is, both as an actual conduit for purification and as a symbol of Ahavat Yisroel.