Sunday, March 18, 2012

Parshas Parah and Shame

The Mechaber in Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 685.7) brings the opinion of those that say reading Parshas Parah is required by Torah law. This is challenged from a number of different angles and most Poskim agree that it is a Rabbinic law and not D'oraisah. One of the possible sources for this being mid'oraisah, is the passuk in parshas eikev (9:7) זכור אל תשכח את אשר הקצפת את ה' א' במדבר - Remember, don't forget that you have angered Hashem in the desert. This passuk actually requires us to remember the transgression of the עגל - the golden calf, and since the parah adumah serves as a kapparah for the עגל, we read parshas parah. Right. We couldn't find a better portion to read in order to conjure up the memory of the cheit ha'eigel? The story itself is described in vivid detail, both in parshas ki sisah, and also in parshas eikev, following the commandment to remember it! The often quoted medrash that informs us of the relationship between parah and the eigel tells a mashal of a King whose maid servant's son dirtied the King's palace. The mother of the boy was to come and clean up the mess that he had made. So too the "mother" (being an adult female cow) of the golden calf should come and serve as its atonement. The reference the medrash makes to the sin of the eigel as being a dirty mess, is quite a rare analogy for sin. Another point to note, is the absence of the boy himself, in his atonement for sin! Wouldn't it be more appropriate for the boy to show up and clean the palace? We should offer a young calf, similar to the eigel, as the kapparah for our sin! I believe we can answer all of the above with a gemarah in Brachos (12b). Rabbah bar Chinina sabba said in the name of Rav, "One who sins and is ashamed of it, is atoned for all of his sin(s)". The extant of shame needed is clarified in the source the statement. Shaul Hamelech, told the risen soul of Shmuel, that he was not getting direction from G-D through the prophets, nor from visionary dreams. He did not mention the lack of guidance from the Urim V'tumim because he was ashamed to mention the Kohein's garment since he had killed out Nov - a city of Kohanim. This shame granted Shaul atonement for his sins. The mashal given by the medrash is a perfect analogy not only to the sin that took place, but more accurately to the disgrace of what took place! How brazen would the boy have to be, to come back to the palace and face the mess he made! The fact that his mother is needed to come and clean, instead of himself, is a healthy sign of the boy's tremendous feeling of shameful guilt. Perhaps this is the reason why the commandment requiring us to remember the eigel is pretty vague about what to remember. Though we are commanded to remember 'that we angered Hashem in the desert', by no means are we required to explicitly speak out the horrific details in public! On the contrary, our shame to mention it in such a manner, is in itself an atonement for the sin! This crystallizes the gemarah in megillah (25b) which presents the possibility of never publicly reading and translating the story of the eigel, even in the course of the general krias haTorah, due to the disgrace we would feel upon its reading. The gemarah responds that we'd prefer its reading, since the shame adds to our atonement. We may say this is true when the story is read as a manner of course and part of the regular reading , so it does not stand out as openly. However the notion to read the story as its own kriah, is not only preposterous, but also wrong and inappropriate. On the contrary, our shame to read so openly about it, and instead read the parshas parah adumah, which just hints to it, is a positive trait and offers us the true atonement we look forward to. P.S. It is certainly clear from the gemarah in megillah mentioned above, that krias haTorah should be an involving experience, evoking emotions and feelings. Let's hope.

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