IMPURITY AND TAHARA; GALUT AND GEULA by Dr. Meir Tamari
Yechekiel’s message of national impurity and purification in the haftara together with Parashat Para’s spiritual cleansing of the ultimate impurity of tumat meit, make clear the concepts of galut and geula, of exile and redemption. They are therefore the perfect preparatory introduction to Nisan, Spring Season, Renewal, and Pesach, Zman Cheiruteinu.
“A dead body represents the complete loss of the Free Will which is the most distinctive feature of the Tzelem Elokim in which man is created; this surely marks the depth of human despair” (S. R. Hirsch). “The soul marks the immortal essence of man, signifying that one is alive; when it departs there is only the tum’a of an empty husk” (Shem MiShmuel). The sprinkling of the ashes of Para Aduma renders one ritually pure, but also renews free will and grants one the optimism and creativity inherent in life itself. Yechekiel describes the tum’a that Israel created during their sojourn in Eretz Yisrael and the resultant additional tum’a of exile that robbed them of national free will and brought the despair that limits spiritual creativity and true religiosity.
Individual Tum’a, ranges from that of bodily discharges, to tzara’at of people, utensils, clothes, buildings and to that of the meit; each with its own method of cleansing. Regarding Eretz Yisrael, this is paralleled by different degrees of separation from normal national living through drought, plague, war and finally, galut corresponding to tum’at meit. Galut puts Israel into a state of impurity just as the meit causes the persons or objects he or she comes into contact with to become themselves ritually impure. Eretz Yisrael has an intrinsic and inherent holiness and sanctity; “the eyes of Hashem your G-d are always on it” (D’varim 11:12). So, “the Land atones for anyone who lives there” (Sifri Haazinu), and “all who reside in the Land reside without sin” (Ketuvot 110). Severance from the holiness of Eretz Yisrael, means that observance of all the mitzvot now become flawed since their intended purpose was to be observed in that Land. Contact between Israel and Hashem is weakened by exile from the Land; “There is no prophecy in Chutz laAretz.” “Whoever leaves and dwells outside Eretz Yisrael must in your eyes be as one who worships idols” (Ketuvot 110).
Just as the impurity of tum’at meit can be purified by the sprinkling of the Para Aduma potion, so the impurity of galut can be cleansed by the elapse of the predetermined time for redemp- tion, just as in the Exodus from Egypt or Shivat Tzion from Bavel. However, it may also be cleansed by Israel’s t’shuva, by repentance, for the sins that caused galut in the first pace. T’shuva which brings redemption also means return, so Harav Kook revolutionized the term to teach that repen- tance for galut is brought about by returning to Eretz Yisrael. It must be remembered that in all cases of tum’a, failure to achieve purification through one of the prescribed rituals constitutes a sin in itself; in the same way, failure to remove the tum’a of galut by the t’shuva to the Land, makes continued living in the galut, a sin in itself.
Yechekiel describes the impurity that caused the exile and makes it clear that Israel persists in the tum’a while it lives amongst the gentile nations. “And they entered among the nations and profaned My Name, in that it is said of them, ‘these are the people of the Lord and they have come out of His Land’” (36:20-21). This Chilul HaShem caused and continued by galut, leads the prophet to his revolutionary and singular introduction of Kiddush Hashem as the sole cause of geula.
The clean water sprinkled by Hashem, after He has gathered the exiles, brought them back to the Land and given them a new heart, purifies this tum’a of galut. However this ingathering will not come about because of Israel’s t’shuva nor because the appointed time for redemption has come, not even because of Israel’s welfare. Rather, the redemption will come solely to sanctify G-d’s Name from the desecration caused by Israel’s living in exile. This desecration comes either because it is misconstrued as a rejection by Him of His People, contrary to His promise that they will be eternally His Chosen People; alternatively because the continued exile is proof of G-d’s supposed inability or His powerlessness to redeem them
The description in the haftara of kibbutz galuyot, the resurgence of the Land’s fertility and the visible new heart of its people dramatically parallel our REISHIT TZ’MICHAT GEUALATAINU.
From Meir Tamari’s, “Truths Desired by G-d; An Excursion into the Weekly Haftarah” - gefenpublishing.com
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