When G‑d taught Moses the laws of spiritual purity, He told him both the manner through which each sort of contamination is contracted, as well its unique process of purification. When G‑d relayed the laws of the person who becomes impure through contact with a dead body, Moses’ face paled. “Master of the universe!” he exclaimed. “If one is thus contaminated, how will he be purified?”


In advance of the Passover holiday, Jews all over read about the purification process of the Red Heifer found in the Torah portion of Chukat. There are many forms of spiritual impurity, of varying gravity. The most severe type of impurity is contracted through contact with a human corpse. In times past, in order to be permitted access to the Holy Temple, one who contracted this impurity needed to be purified by being sprinkled with waters mixed with the ashes of a red heifer. We read this portion in preparation for the fast-approaching holiday of Passover; it reminds us of the need to attain the spiritual purity which guarantees us entry to the Temple during the upcoming holiday.

G‑d is the source of all life; hence all who are connected to Him are aliveThe Torah is eternal. Although certain mitzvot—such as all Temple-related commandments—are restricted to specific times and conditions, they all contain a message which is applicable to all people at all times. On Passover, the “Season of our Liberation,” we seek personal redemption. We seek to lead spiritual and fulfilling lives; we seek to be freed from our “inner Pharaoh” who strives to torpedo our journey to Mt. Sinai and our receiving the Torah. Our preparations for this redemption commence with the spiritual service of the Red Heifer.

Moses had a profound understanding of the nature of death, an understanding which led to his bewilderment at the prospect of any sort of purification for an impurity contracted from a corpse. “You who cleave to the L‑rd your G‑d are alive, all of you, this day.”1 G‑d is the source of all life; hence all who are connected to Him are alive. Thus our sages tell us that “righteous people, even after their passing, are regarded as alive; wicked people, even while they are ‘alive,’ are considered dead.” The impurity contracted through association with a corpse is so acute because it is a metaphor for one who has completely severed himself from his lifeline—a person whose life is totally devoid of G‑dly purpose. Even Moses couldn’t envision a purification process which could counteract such a grave impurity!

But, as G‑d gently explained to Moses, life after death does exist. By following the procedure of the Red Heifer, the spiritually lifeless person can begin to enjoy a fulfilling life, rich with meaning and purpose.

The uniqueness of the Red Heifer, its quality which allows it to imbue life within a spiritual carcass, is its absurdity—it is a mitzvah which makes no sense whatsoever. When King Solomon, the wisest of all men, reflected on this mitzvah, he exclaimed, “I said, ‘I will become wise,’ but it is far from me.” Many mitzvot are difficult to comprehend, but this one really takes the cake . . .

One who is totally detached from his Divine source can reestablish the connection only through total commitment to G‑d. This commitment involves following G‑d through thick and thin, whether it’s convenient, comfortable and sensible—or not. Finite human intellect is certainly not a vehicle through which to connect to the infinite G‑d.

The redemption of Passover is available to all. First, however, we must reconnect to our source of life through internalizing the lesson of the Red Heifer.