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June 26, 2017 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Chukat

This week’s portion begins with the “red cow ritual”- the rule that certain sacrifices should involve a red heifer.  After the cow is sacrificed and burned, its ashes should be used for purification.  However, the people involved in this process become ritually impure for a day or so.

Medieval commentators found this rule to be very intriguing, because the ritually pure person who burns the cow becomes impure-  yet the ashes are used to purify people who become ritually impure.   Over the centuries, people have used this “harmony of opposites” (in Miller’s words) to make all sorts of ethical points.

One example mentioned by Miller: “We should spend money in the same paradoxical manner, being frugal with other people’s money, while at the same time giving charity generously.”

This resonated with me because about a decade ago a relative (who shall remain nameless) was a houseguest and made all sorts of expensive suggestions about how my apartment could look better.  I was quite offended.

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