Parshas Shemini - Parashas Parah
A Golden Mixture
This Shabbos is Parashas Parah, the third of four special Maftirs
that we read before and after Purim. They were chosen to focus on the
issues of the day in order to help us take advantage of the spiritual
opportunity that presents itself at this particular time of year:
Freedom. We are entering Zman Cheiruseinu (the Time of our Freedom).
Parashas Parah is from Chukas in Bamidbar, and is about the Parah
Adumah (Red Heifer) used to purify those who had come in contact with
a dead body, or an object such as a sword. Tumas Meis (impurity of
the dead) is the strongest form of spiritual impurity that one can
contract, and renders an individual unfit to take part in the Pesach
Offering. However, a sprinkling from special waters that included
ashes from the Parah Adumah is the Torah's prescription to cause a
person to leave that state.
Thus we read this section in advance of Pesach, even though we cannot
perform the service today.Lacking the Temple, we cannot even offer a
Korban Pesach. However, as the Talmud states, just verbalizing the
procedure at such a time as ours counts on our behalf as if we had
actually performed the ritual (Megillah 31b).
Parashas Shemini on the other hand, discusses the inauguration of the
Mishkan, which happened to also be on the first day of Nissan, two
weeks in advance of Pesach. And, at the height of the ceremony,
Aharon HaKohen's two sons, Nadav and Avihu, were killed because they
offered an authorized incense offering. And therein lies an important
connection between the parshah itself and the special Maftir:
Rectification for the sin of the golden calf.
Regarding the Red Heifer, Rashi explains that its purpose is to atone
for the sin of the golden calf. Let the mother (a heifer) come and
clean up for its child (the calf), Rashi explains. It was the golden
calf that caused the Jewish people to become mortal once again,
re-creating the issue of spiritual impurity from death. Let the Parah
Adumah come and provide a means to become pure of that effect.
Regarding the sons of Aharon, Moshe told the Jewish people:
G-d became very angry with Aharon to destroy him; and I prayed for
Aharon at that time. (Devarim 9:20)
G-d became very angry with Aharon . . . Because he listened to you .
. . to destroy him . . . this denotes the destruction of one's
children . . . and I prayed for Aharon at that time . . . and my
prayer helped for half so that only two sons died and two remained
Even though Nadav and Avihu committed their own sin, that may have
helped to determine which two of Aharon's fours sons would die. Not
only this, but even though their own sin warranted death from Heaven,
it was the golden calf that determined how they died:
Had the Jewish people not sinned with the calf, the zuhama would have
been completely removed from them. Had that been the case, even
though Nadav and Avihu sinned with the incense, they could have
simply died a normal death. However, since Israel did commit the sin
with the calf, they caused the zuhama to adhere once again to the
Nefesh of Adam. As a result, Nadav and Avihu had to die through
burning. This is the reason for, "And all your brothers the entire
House of Israel shall cry over the burning" (Vayikra 10:6): their sin
of the calf caused the burning of the Nefesh of Adam HaRishon, the
"father of the entire world." This is the reason why Nadav and Avihu
were considered "equal" to the entire Jewish people, like Moshe and
Aharon, because they had possessed the Nefesh of Adam HaRishon.
(Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 33)
Thus, both the parshat itself and the special Maftir have a common
thread: Atonement for the golden calf.
The entire nation of Israel reached the Tzin desert in the first
month. The people camped in Kadesh and that is where Miriam died and
was buried. (Bamidbar 20:1)
Following on the heels of the reading of the law of the Parah Adumah
is the death of Miriam, decades after the mitzvah of Parah Adumah was
given. Thus, the Talmud asks why the two episodes are juxtaposed, and
the answer is given:
Rav Ami asked, "Why is the death of Miriam close to Parashas Parah
Adumah? To tell you that just as the Parah Adumah atones, so does the
death of righteous people atone." (Moed Katan 28a)
Tosfos clarifies and states, like Rashi, that the Parah Adumah atones
specifically for the sin of the golden calf. It can be assumed that
the death of righteous people atones in general, for whatever sins
are plaguing the Jewish people at the time. It would seem as if Nadav
and Avihu were the only righteous people to die because of the golden
calf, but in reality, that is not true. Everything that goes wrong in
history can be traced back to the sin of the EIGEL HAZAHAV (the
Let's start with current times. You have to admit that current
history is not what we had hoped it would be by this time. True, for
the moment it looks as if there is a breakthrough in the Middle-East
peace process, but that is only an illusion. The price of that peace
is the uprooting of 8,000 Jews, the destruction of years worth of
industrial development, and an ever-widening split in the Jewish
people. Not to mention increased military vulnerability on the side
of the Israelis.
There are also other natives that seem to be getting restless. Russia
is moving further away from democracy, while Iran arms itself with
nuclear capability. America, England, and the rest of Europe can talk
about increased stability in the Middle-East all they want. However,
Iran marches to the tune of a different miniret, as does China who is
circling Taiwan like a bird of prey, albeit only politically, so far.
There are also rumblings in North Korea that cannot be ignored.
There is no question that all of this has been building for years.
However, the year that it came out of the closet was in 2001 with the
attack on the World Trade Center. That assault changed everything in
an extremely conscious way, sending American troops big time onto
that far away continent. It also initiated the so-called war against
terrorism, a first in history that permitted the American army to
take care of unfinished business in Iran, and perhaps even Syria.
If the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, awoke the sleeping
giant at that time, it was the attack on the American nation that
awoke the sleeping giant once again 60 years later on September 11th.
Even George W. Bush, Jr., himself said so.
There were, perhaps, many distinguishing features of that attack, but
two of them were the amount of terrorists involved and how long the
attack lasted: 19 terrorists who brought down the Twin Towers in 102
minutes. There was supposed to have been 20 terrorists, but for some
reason one didn't make it on time. In the end, it took 19 Arab
terrorists using box cutters 102 minutes to completely destroy one of
America's most important icons of its financial prowess.
Coincidentally, the gematria of eigel (calf) is 103, and of hazahav
(the golden) is 19.
Coincidentally, Migdalei HaTeomim (the Twin Towers) is encoded in
Parashas Chukas - spanning the section of the Parah Adumah, the death
of Miriam, and the episode of Moshe hitting the rock. The names of
the terrorists, pilots, and other specific information are also
Coincidentally, the table in which HaTeomim (the Twin) is encoded, is
a matrix of thirty-six letters, the number that represents the Ohr
HaGanuz (the Hidden Light of Creation) - the anti-thesis of the
golden calf. It was this light that was drawn down in this week's
parshah at the height of the inauguration (Chanukat HaMishkan) just
before Nadav and Avihu died on the EIGHTH day.
Coincidentally, about 3,000 people died in the Twin Towers attack,
and regarding the golden calf it says:
The people of Levi did as Moshe said killing about three thousand
people [involved in the golden calf] that day. (Shemos 32:28)
This is just another place in the Torah where the Twin Towers attack
is encoded in the Torah (http://www.torahcodes.net/alltwin.html).
Now, if you are coming from the standpoint that Torah is not Divine,
or that even if it is from G-d, He did not encode information in such
a way, especially about the future, then such information can be at
best coincidental. But, if you are coming from the direction of Sod,
then it can only be a Divinely-encoded message to indicate what
happened and why, and perhaps more importantly, where things are
Where ARE things heading?
G-d told Moshe, "Go down. Your people which you brought out of Egypt
have corrupted themselves." (Shemos 32:7)
It does not say "the people" have corrupted but "your" people: the
Erev Rav (Mixed Multitude) whom you accepted on your own as converts
without first consulting Me. You thought it was a good thing for
converts to be attached to the Shechinah; now they have corrupted
themselves and others as well. (Rashi)
Had the Erev Rav not been there, it is clear the golden calf would
not have been there either. And if the Erev Rav comes back at the end
of history -
Now you can understand the meaning of, "Behold, you shall die with
your fathers, and this people will rise up" (Devarim 31:16), which is
considered to be one of the verses that has no known [simple]
explanation (Yoma 56a). However, it can be explained with the words
"rise up" referring to that which comes before and after them [in the
posuk], and both explanations are true. For, in the future Moshe
himself will reincarnate (i.e., rise up) and return in the last
generation, as it says, "you will die with your fathers and rise up."
In fact, in the final generation, the Dor HaMidbar (Generation of the
Desert) will also reincarnate with the Erev Rav, and this is what the
posuk also says, "this people will rise up" . . . Thus, the
Generation of the Desert along with the Erev Rav reincarnate in the
final generation, "like in the days of leaving Egypt" (Michah 7:15).
(Sha'ar HaGilgulim, Ch. 20)
Then why shouldn't the golden calf also come back?
But what does that mean? How does the golden calf come back today?
The only way to answer that question is to understand what the golden
calf represented in its essence. As the nations of Biblical times,
the people change, but the concept remains the same - always. And,
thanks to the Erev Rav, the essence of the eigel hazahav is spelled
out in the following posuk:
All the people pulled off the golden earrings from their ears and
brought them to Aharon. He took all of it from them and with an
engraving tool formed it and made a molten calf. They said, "These
are your gods Israel which brought you up out of Egypt!" (Shemos
However, explains Rashi, what they really meant was, now that Moshe
was dead, or so they had thought, the golden calf was to replace him
as a source of direction. They had sought to replace Moshe Rabbeinu,
not G-d, which would have been ridiculous at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
This makes sense, for as the Arizal explains, the souls of the Erev
Rav came from the same place in the Sefiros as did Moshe Rabbeinu's,
except that his was rectified and theirs were not. This is why,
explained the Vilna Gaon, the gematria of Erev Rav is equal to that
of Da'as (Dalet-Ayin-Tav), the source of the light of their souls.
However, that was more of an expression of their potential until
their souls were rectified, and until that time they acted as the
antithesis of Moshe Rabbeinu.
Thus, the Vilna Gaon revealed:
They are called Erev Rav because they are the heads of the Jews in
exile, and therefore, they are called rav. (Likutei HaGR"A)
The golden calf is merely their vehicle to get around, whatever form
it may take. It is that which they use to sway the minds of Klal
Yisroel from DA'AS Moshe to DA'AS Erev Rav, and it is so fundamental
that the Zohar connects them all the way back in time to the first
instance. They are also the very source of Haman, that is Amalek.
From the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat.
How many different explanations are there for this posuk and the
effects of the sin? Here is a novel one:
The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil will be thrust from them and
shall no longer cling to them or mingle with them, for with respect
to Israel it said, "From the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil you
shall not eat" (Bereishis 2:17). The tree is the Erev Rav, and G-d
told them that through mixing with them they suffered two losses, the
first and second temples, as it says, "on the day that you eat from
it you will certainly die . . ." (Zohar, 1:26a)
What does the Zohar mean when it equates the Erev Rav with the Aitz
HaDa'as Tov v'Rah? It means that if you understand the essence of the
Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah, then you can understand the essence of the
Erev Rav as well, and know what to avoid, or what to harness in the
direction of G-d. No wonder the Arizal compares the incident of the
golden calf with the sin of eating from the Tree, and that the Twin
Towers were destroyed in the 83.33-year period of history in the
sixth millennium that corresponds to when Adam HaRishon ate from the
tree on Day Six.
So what was it about the Aitz HaDa'as Tov v'Rah that made it so evil
that warranted the punishment of death? The answer is, death itself.
In other words, G-d wasn't telling Adam the punishment for disobeying
the commandment to not eat, He was warning him about the Tree, and
about its capacity to kill a person. Unlike the Aitz HaChaim (Tree of
Life) that was like the manna, the Aitz HaDa'as had much good, but
also much bad as well.
For, when it comes to something that is completely evil it is easy to
notice the enemy, to take regard of him, and to prepare oneself
sufficiently against him. One is, in a sense, safer that way. But
when it comes to that which is a mixture of good and evil, and the
mixed multitude was a mix of this as well, then it is possible to
confuse the enemy for a friend and leave oneself completely
indefensible, if not physical then certainly conceptually. It takes a
real spiritual and intellectual genius, like Rebi Meir, who can tell
the difference between the fruit and the peel so that he can safely
enjoy the former while disposing of the latter (Chagigah 15a).
But now that we live in a world that is completely that way, to the
point that even the Jewish people are a mixture of good and evil,
capable of acting like the Erev Rav. What can be done?
Not a whole lot, except to expose the very aspect of Erev Rav that we
might possess on our own, and rid ourselves of it. However, in terms
of the big picture, exposing the Erev Rav will be G-d's job, and He
does that through the events of history that force us to act one way
or the other. And when that time comes, and the destruction of the
Twin Towers may have been one of the most powerful signals that it
has, a person must be most careful, for he can, through his attitude
and Da'as find himself on the wrong side of the line, intermingling
with the very group he thought he spent his life trying to avoid.
Then, like the sons of Aharon and the Parah Adumah, he might find
himself as part of the atonement for the golden calf, G-d forbid, as
opposed to being part of those for whom atonement was done.
Have a great Shabbos,
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.