In a small town near Kovna, known as Vabolnik, lived a pure righteous woman named Bas Sheva together with her husband, Reb Ezriel, who was known as a yorei Shomayim. The woman gave birth to 10 children. However, the last pregnancy involved complications. The doctors urged her to have the pregnancy terminated, but she would hear nothing of it. But what started out first as a suggestion turned into pressure. They told her that she was being foolish and that the child would, in all probability, live a compromised life, if he would survive at all. But she remained steadfast with her temimus and her belief that Hashem would take care of her.
It turned out that she gave birth to a healthy baby boy. It took her a long time to recover from the birth, but the baby was very much alive. A number of years passed and Europe was ravaged by World War II, destroying almost all of the Jewish communities. From all of the woman’s children, only two survived, this child born after complications and a sister. Out of all of her children, it was this boy who carried on the family name.
What makes this story even more remarkable is the identity of this child who came into this world because of his mother’s temimus. The boy would grow up to be the manhig Yisroel, the great gaon and tzaddik, Rav Elazar Menachem Man Shach zt”l. At the time of her pregnancy, the mother had no inkling that she was carrying within her the future gadol hador. She only knew that she must carry out her mission designated to her by Hakadosh Boruch Hu. She did her part and Hashem did His, bestowing upon her and all of Klal Yisroel this great luminary. This story was related by Rav Shach himself (Aleinu Leshabeiach, Parshas Shoftim).
The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 23:4) relates that Lemech had two wives and they each bore him one child, but then they refused to have any more children, with the claim that a mabul would soon arrive. If they have more children, it will be for naught, they said, for Hashem said that after seven generations, not one of Kayin’s progeny would survive, and those who came from Kayin were the sixth generation. If so, there was no purpose in their having more children.
Lemech said to his wives, “Let us go to Adam and ask his advice.” Adam advised them, “You fulfill your obligation of having children and leave the rest up to Hashem.”
What was the end result of the story? Naamah was born to Lemech and his wife Tzilah afterwards, and she became the wife of Noach. She survived the mabul and all of mankind today comes from her.
The lesson to be learned from this is that we must serve Hashem with temimus, even if logically our service makes no sense.
The parsha of parah adumah begins with, “Zos chukas haTorah… This is the decree of the Torah that Hashem commanded saying: Speak to the Bnei Yisroel and they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish, and upon which a yoke has not come” (Bamidbar 19:2).
Why does the Torah stress that this mitzvah is a chok, a decree beyond human understanding? Because the Soton and the nations of the world taunt them, saying, “What is the reason for this mitzvah? Logically, it makes no sense, as it purifies those who are tomei and contaminates those who are tahor. To this, we answer that it is a decree from Hashem and it is not for us to question it (Rashi).
There are many mitzvos in the Torah that we don’t know the reason for. Why do the nations pick on this one in particular? Furthermore, later in the parsha, the Torah, when stating the laws of contamination under a tent, says, “Zos haTorah adam ki yomus b’ohel – This is the teaching of a man who would die in a tent” (Bamidbar 19:14). About this, Chazal say, “You Yisroel are called Adam and not the nations of the world” (Yevamos 61a). Why is this concept taught to us in this particular parsha? It would seem that the parsha of parah adumah is a key point in differentiating between Yisroel and the nations of the world.
It all started with the cheit of the Eitz Hadaas. Adam was created as a tzelem Elokim, a godly person. He was a spiritual being in a physical body totally bonded with Hashem, to the extent that when the malachim first gazed upon him, they wanted to say, “Kadosh, kadosh, kadosh”(Medrash). His sole purpose in life was to fulfill the ratzon Hashem. He was given only one command: not to eat from the Eitz Hada’as. However, because of the influence of the nochosh and his wife Chava, he rationalized that he could accomplish more by eating from the forbidden fruit.
This was a fatal mistake. By allowing his own rationale and self-interest to direct him, he created a barrier between him and Hashem. Following his own desire allowed the yeitzer hara to become a part of him. Now he became mortal. He would eventually have to die and he was now affected by his physical inclinations. When we learn Sefer Bereishis and what followed this aveirah, we see that the results were devastating. Man’s desires caused a steady decline in the moral fabric of society. Immorality was rampant and eventually Hashem had to bring a mabul to destroy the world.
What was the attitude of mankind after the sin of Adam? Most of the world allowed themselves to go with the flow, following their inclinations regardless of where it would lead them. And it led them to oblivion. But there were individuals who wanted to close the breach between Heaven and Earth. Noach found favor in the eyes of Hashem. To a certain degree, he was able to contain the hemorrhaging. But after the mabul, society continued to sin. The avos hakedoshim started the process of bringing the Shechinah back to Earth. They were a Bais Hamikdosh and they were a merkavah for the Shechinah. They accomplished this by serving Hashem loyally, negating themselves and their interests to the Will of Hashem, thus rectifying the aveirah of Adam Harishon.
The Gemara says that the beauty of Yaakov Avinu was similar to the beauty of Adam Harishon (Bava Metzia 84a). Rav Tzadok Hakohein of Lublin explains that Yaakov Avinu, the chosen of all the avos, reached the level of Adam Harishon before the sin of the Eitz Hada’as and attained that pristine beauty not tainted by the yeitzer hara. This correlates with what Chazal tell us that Yaakov Avinu never died (Taanis 5b). Because he served Hashem with temimus, Yaakov, the ish tam, reached a level where there was no barrier between him and Hakadosh Boruch Hu. He was attached to the essence of life and became immortal.
This is the mission of Klal Yisroel – to follow in the footsteps of the avos hakedoshim. When we said na’aseh venishma at Har Sinai without asking any questions, we negated ourselves completely to the Will of Hashem. At that moment ,we reached the level of Adam Harishon before the cheit and were free from the yeitzer hara and free from the Malach Hamovess, the ultimate in cheirus. Unfortunately, we were not on this level for very long, as we, too, allowed our subjectivity to get in the way with the cheit ha’Eigel.
We continue to follow the ways of the avos by keeping the Torah and by accepting the ways of Hashem without questioning. While the rest of the world allows nature to run its course and continues to sink deeper into a moral abyss, we try to go against the flow, to rise higher and get closer to Hashem. A live fish swims against the stream, while a dead fish gets swept away with it. Chazal tell us that resha’im, even while they are alive, are considered dead, while tzaddikim, even after death, are alive (Brachos 18b). Although we have our failings and weaknesses, we continue to strive to grow and bond with Hashem.
The mitzvah of parah adumah is the quintessential mitzvah that represents negating our da’as to that of Hashem, for we cannot understand it. Even the greatest chocom, Shlomo Hamelech, tried to comprehend it, but was unsuccessful. This is why it purifies us from tumas meis brought about by the cheit of the Eitz Hada’as, for to a certain degree, it brings us back to the level of Adam Harishon before the sin, when there was no barrier between him and Hashem and there was no death or contamination.
Rava said that as a reward for Avrohom saying, “V’anochi afar va’eifer – I am but dust and ashes,” his children merited receiving two mitzvos, the ashes of parah adumah and the dust of the Soton (Sotah 17a). The connection is obvious, for the mitzvah of parah adumah represents forfeiting our intellect and understanding for the sake of Hashem. This middah was demonstrated by Avrohom Avinu when he referred to himself as ashes. And Avrohom inculcated this in Yitzchok and Yaakov, and it became part of our essence. This is also why Hashem told Moshe, “Veyikchu eilecha – And they shall take the parah adumah to you.” Because Moshe Rabbeinu, who said, “Va’nachnu mah – Who are we?” is the epitome of self-negation to Hashem, the living embodiment of the fundamental idea of this mitzvah.
This is why the statement, “You are called Adam and not the nations of the world,” is learned in this parsha, because it is this mitzvah that distinguishes between us and the rest of the world, as it represents an elevated way of life. We live the life of yielding our logic and self-interest to the Will of Hashem, while the goyim allow their subjective thinking to stray further away from Hashem. Thus, we emulate the ways of Yaakov Avinu, who reflected the beauty of Adam before the cheit, unlike the nations of the world. We, and not the umos ha’olam, are called Adam.
This has nothing to do with the feeling of superiority of our race over the others as the goyim accuse us of. It is about keeping principles and morals in the Torah. Anyone in the entire world who sincerely embraces our way of life can be called Adam. The Torah was given in 70 languages, intimating to the nations that they, too, can accept the Torah and receive this title. It takes dedication and rising above man’s natural inclinations.
Now we can understand why the Soton and the umos ha’olam choose this mitzvah in particular to taunt us, because more than any other commandment, it reflects on our purpose, our exceptionalism, and our purity. This is something that the rest of the world refuses to recognize. Instead of acknowledging how special we are for keeping this mitzvah, they taunt us for following Hashem without questioning.
Every time a Yid experiences nisyonos and accepts them without questioning Hashem, he is living a life similar to Adam before the cheit. Any time we witness world events and can make no sense of them and continue our blind faith in Hashem, we are living the lesson of the parah adumah. Whenever we see tzaddikim facing hardships and resha’im living a life of pleasure and honor and we maintain our emunah in Hashem, we are emulating the ways of the avos hakedoshim and bringing ourselves closer to the Shechinah… You are called Adam.