Why is the red heifer called chukat haTorah, "the decree of the Torah"? It's as if the Torah is saying, "This is the crux of the whole Torah."

We know that the essence of the whole Torah is love of one's fellow: There is the famous story of the sage Hillel and a person who wanted to convert, provided that Hillel would teach him the Torah while standing on one foot. Hillel answered: "What is hateful unto you, do not do to another. This is the whole Torah. All the rest is commentary." What did he mean by this statement? He meant that love of one's fellow is the key to the entire Torah. That's what G‑d wants, first and foremost. And if a person has love for a fellow Jew, that will lead to Torah and love of G‑d.

The other way around doesn't work. If one only has love for G‑d but doesn't love his fellow, that is a terrible, terrible flaw.

What is the paradox of the red heifer? It is that the Jews went ahead and gave away hours of their time in order to prepare it for somebody else. They didn't do it for themselves, they did it for the other Jews who had become spiritually impure. Furthermore, those priests who prepared the red heifer not only gave up their time to prepare it — it's a lengthy process — but they also became impure as a result.

One may ask, "Now, why should I go ahead and give up my time to help a person whom I don't even know? I don't know who the beneficiaries of this red heifer are going to be. Who knows? Maybe it won't happen for ten years!" Do you think the red heifer mixture was used every single day? It was kept in a certain part of the Holy Temple and whenever it was necessary it was used. It's not as if it was for your next door neighbor, for your mother, your brother; maybe for them a priest would have expended his time and purity making it. But for a total stranger?! Why should a Jew do that? Should a normal person go and harm himself to help another Jew?

"This is the decree of the Torah." A person should not only want to help another Jew when he gets a prize, when he becomes Chairman of the Dinner or Man of the Year. Everyone will know that this person did a great deed; it'll be in the newspaper, and he'll get a lot of honor for it. That's not necessarily love for one's fellow. It's more like serving yourself. Who knows if you are really doing the good deed for others, or because you want everyone else to know how nice you are? What is your real intention?

But if you do something for another and not only don't you get rewarded for it, but you also become impure for it, that is real self sacrifice. When you sacrifice yourself for another, not only don't you get a prize, but you also, in a sense, suffer for it. That is "the decree of the Torah."

If you ever go to a Jewish funeral —we should never have to go to one — you may notice that on the car carrying the deceased, there are four Hebrew letters: gimmel, chet, shin, alef. These stand for the words gemilut chessed shel emet — acts of true kindness. Why is this called "true kindness?" Because when you do a kindly act, someone will say, "Oh, you're so nice. I love you. You're such a nice person." Well, you like to hear that, so you go help others so that everyone will tell you how nice you are — you go on an ego trip. But if you go and bury a dead person, he'll never say "Thank you" to you. That's it — you're just doing it for him. It is true kindness.