Would it be logical to willingly sign up for a situation that will:

  • Cost you lots of money?
  • Cause you countless sleepless nights?
  • Create innumerable messes (some really smelly ones!)?
  • Rob you of hard-to-come-by time at a period in your life when you are busiest?
  • Wreak havoc on your body (and, possibly, your marriage)?
  • Provide you with crushing responsibility for years to come?
  • Offer no guarantees (whatsoever!) of outcome?

And yet, so many of us willingly embark on parenthood.

Professor L. A. Paul, a distinguished metaphysics philosopher, explains that deciding to have children is not a rational decision. Rational decisions are based on outcomes, but having children is “an epistemically transformative experience.” You cannot know what the experience of having your own child will be like until you experience it.

You may be so transformed by this baby that his or her wellbeing becomes more important than your own. You may be completely changed, finding room within yourself for another who becomes as important, or even more important, than your own self.

Does that make sense? No. Is it logical? No. But some of the greatest experiences in life result from actions that go far beyond logic.

This week’s Torah portion is called Chukat, which refers to supra-rational laws, and keeping G‑d’s laws due to our devotion to His will even when it is beyond our understanding. It begins with the most enigmatic law—the law of the red heifer, whose ashes were sprinkled on those who became ritually impure.

The clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean person . . . and he shall be clean at evening. . . . [But] he who sprinkles the water of sprinkling . . . shall be unclean. (Numbers 19:19–21)

One of the fascinating things about this ritual is that although the ashes purify the impure individual, the kohen performing this act becomes impure himself!

Midrash Tanchuma elucidates:

All who are involved in the preparation of the heifer, from beginning to the end, become impure, but the heifer itself purifies the impure! G‑d says: “I have made a chok, a decree . . .”

The Rebbe points out that the Torah is teaching us to care about another person’s impurity and corruption, and to do everything within our power to rehabilitate him.

What about the time, energy and resources that it will rob me of? What if my contact with him will diminish me, emotionally, materially and spiritually?

Just as the Torah instructs the kohen, who is very careful not to become impure, to do so, so must we.

Does it make sense? No. Is it logical? No.

But life isn’t about doing things that are only logical. Our lives are about transcending our egos—putting aside our own self-interests, and opening ourselves up to loving another and doing something purely out of our devotion to G‑d’s will even when it is devoid of rationale.

Indeed, some of the greatest experiences in life result from actions that go beyond logic.