A Strange Prescription
By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim
On the Shabbat before the month of Nissan we take out an extra Torah Scroll and read about the law of the red heifer. The red heifer was used in a process to purify individuals that had come into contact with the dead. These individuals were required to purify themselves before partaking of the temple offerings. On Passover, the entire nation is commanded to eat the meat of the Pascal lamb. It was therefore incumbent upon every individual to purify themselves before Passover, allowing the consumption of the Pascal lamb. This is the basic reason why this special portion is read before the month of Nissan, in which Passover is celebrated.
The law of the red heifer represents the quintessential ‘Chok’. A ‘Chok’ is a law that is beyond human comprehension. Although the Torah is the ultimate book of wisdom and understanding, which encourages humanity to question and understand its depths, the Torah informs us that human intellect has its limitations. There are ‘commands’ and ‘spiritual laws’ that are beyond comprehension of the human intellect.
The offering of the Pascal lamb was the Jewish nations first act of service of God. I would like to suggest that perhaps the reading of the red heifer law before Passover carries within it the following message: Although one should apply ones intellect fully in the study of Torah, when it comes to service of God one should learn to discard ones intellect and serve with God with complete innocence. Our intellectual understanding of God’s commandments is not, and should not be, a prerequisite for their fulfillment. When the top medical practitioner prescribes a medication we take it with confidence, although it’s workings are beyond our comprehension. Similarly we take the prescriptions of our creator although they are beyond our comprehension.