Last week, we talked about the two spiritual axes, טומאהטהרה and קדושהחול, and how ספר ויקרא first deals with טומאה, then goes on to קדושה starting with this week’s parasha. We talked about how טומאה was connected to the awareness of death, and how that made it impossible to enter into the מקדש.
But it looks like I’m wrong.
There seems to be a logical sequence of laws of טומאה:
So it would make sense that, after the laws of the "minor' impurities of human beings, the Torah should go on to the big טומאה: a dead human body. In fact, it sounds like the Torah is setting up exactly that:
It should continue,
But instead, פרה אדומה is in ספר במדבר, and the law introduced with אחרי מות is the law of יום כפור.
We have previously discussed the fact that the laws of פרה אדומה were given earlier and recorded after the sin of the spies and the rebellion of Korach as a response to those incidents. Here, it seems that it has been replaced with the laws of a יום טוב, that would fit in better later in פרשת אמר with all the other יומים טובים. What is it doing here?
I would argue that the ceremony of יום כפור has a similar message to the פרה אדומה, and is a fitting climax to the laws of טומאה and a transition to the laws of קדושה. What makes פרה אדומה unique?
Let’s look at that in more detail.
But that paradox applies to יום כפור as well:
עבודת יום כיפור is also מטהר את הטמאים ומטמא את הטהורים.
What’s going on? We will look at this from the perspective of the Ramban, but we need to start with a cryptic comment of the Ibn Ezra:
The Ramban explains the Ibn Ezra:
He then quotes an aggadah:
And explains the “33”:
Count 33 verses from ויקרא טז:ח and you end up at:
The context is:
This is very hard to understand. Rav Moshe Lichtenstein connects it to the law of מטהר את הטמאים ומטמא את הטהורים:
The paradox of פרה אדומה and שעיר לעזאזל is not fundamentally the problem of מטהר את הטמאים ומטמא את הטהורים; that’s only the consequence of the problem of מעשה קדשים בחוץ. They have the form of שוחד לשטן, and while this is a commandment, it is so dangerous that those who deal with it need a whole new purification procedure to return to the מקדש.
We talked about the danger of the awareness of death leading to nihilism. But there’s another danger: necromancy and worshiping death and destruction as independent power. That even has echoes in modern psychology:
That’s wrong, too. Everything in this world is a creation of ה׳.
And so our parasha ends with a summary of the laws of טומאה and another warning against serving the power of death: