Thursday, March 16, 2017

We Do What We Can And Hashem Does The Rest

Audio Version By Rabbi Sholem Perl
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This week we read an extra Torah reading, Parshas Parah. The Haftora for parshas Parah is a prophecy of our prophet Yechezkel, in which, Hashem gives reasons for the exile, and tells how He will gather us from all the nations, purify us, and rebuild our population and cities in the era of Moshiach.

The connection to Parshas Parah, is that it speaks about the preparation of the Parah Aduma, the red heifer, and how its ashes were used to purify those who became impure due to coming in contact with a dead person. The ashes were mixed with water and sprinkled on the impure person. Similarly, the Haftora speaks of our sins, which caused us to become impure and sent into exile. And when Moshiach comes, Hashem says, "I will sprinkle upon you pure water (from the red heifer), and you will become pure..."

The Haftora begins with the reasons for the exile, and then Hashem starts to tell about the future redemption. He says, "I do not do this for your sake House of Israel, but for My Holy Name's sake... And I will sanctify My Name..., and the nations will know that I am Hashem... For I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your own land. Then I will sprinkle upon you pure water (from the red heifer), and you will become Pure..."

Rabbi Akiva said, "Be happy Israel..., who purifies you? Your Father in heaven, as it says, 'And I will sprinkle upon you pure water and you will become pure.' And it says, 'Hashem is Israel's mikva.'* Just as a mikva purifies the impure, so does Hashem purify Israel."

Rabbi Akiva is talking about forgiveness of sin on Yom Kippur, and he teaches us several things.

First, that more than the day of Yom Kippur, and more than our prayers and supplications, it is our intrinsic bond with Hashem that grants us forgiveness and purifies us.

This is clear from the verses in the Haftora. "I do not do this for your sake... I will sprinkle upon you pure water and you will become pure." Meaning, that it is from Hashem. Why does He do it? Because we are one with Him. And on Yom Kippur, this intrinsic bond is revealed, and when that happens, the forgiveness is automatic.

From the first verse that Rabbi Akiva states, "And I will sprinkle upon you pure water," being that the actual verse is talking about a special and powerful event, the coming of Moshiach, we might assume that this kind of forgiveness could only be attained at special times, like Yom Kippur. Therefore, he adds the second verse about mikva, to teach us a second lesson, that just as mikva purifies at any time, so too, we can reveal this bond and attain forgiveness at any time.

Why does Rabbi Akiva say, "Just as a mikva purifies the impure?" Who else does the mikva purify, but the impure? He could have said, "Just as a mikva purifies, so does Hashem purify Israel," and we would have understood the same thing. What does "the impure" add?

When it comes to impurities, some are purified by going to the mikva, while others are more powerful, and require the water from the red heifer. When a person has two impurities, one that requires mikva, and the other that needs the red heifer, and he just goes to the mikva, he becomes partially pure. So he is now purified and still impure. This is what Rabbi Akiva is teaching us with the words "purifies the impure." When someone has several sins, but he is overworked and doesn't have the time or the energy to do proper Teshuva for all of them, and he says to Hashem, "I will work on the sins that are on my conscience." He should not think it is all or nothing, Hashem will accept his partial Teshuva. When Hashem sees that a Jew is turning to Him, even in the smallest way, He readily accepts him. And he can be certain that ultimately he will do Teshuva for the rest, Hashem will help him, as our great sage Ben Azzai said, "One mitzvah brings another mitzvah."

The idea here, is that we can only do things according to our ability, and then Hashem does His. We also see this in the continuation of the Haftora. Hashem says, "I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put inside you, I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit inside you, and cause you to keep my statutes..." All these things will be done by Hashem, when Moshiach comes, after we have done our part.

This is a general rule as well. There are some things that are beyond our ability. When faced with this kind of situation, we must do what we can, and then it is up to Hashem to do His part and complete it.

The Alter Rebbe explained the verse, "I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." The question is asked, why doesn't it say, that He will remove our brain of stone and give us a brain of flesh? Because with our brain, we have the ability to understand, however, many lofty spiritual ideas are beyond our ability to integrate into our spiritual makeup and feel them. If this is the case, what point is there, in learning these concepts? This is one of the cases, where we must do our part, learning and understanding to the best of our ability, and Hashem in turn will do His part, removing the stone heart, our inability to feel, and give us a soft heart of flesh, so that we don't just understand. But feel as well.

May we soon experience all these things mentioned in the Haftora, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

* The verse says, "Mikvei Yisrael Hashem," which means, Hashem is Israel's hope. However, the word Mikvei can mean mikva as well, and this is the way that Rabbi Akiva uses it here.

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