1. This week, we read two Torah portions from two different Torah scrolls: parshas Ki Sisa, in keeping with the ongoing pattern of weekly Torah portions and parshas Parah, the third of the four special Torah portions read beginning from the Shabbos on which the month of Adar is blessed.

Each of these two readings has an important lesson of its own. Their relationship to each other can be described with the expression, “the continuous offerings according to their order and the additional offerings according to their rules.” Thus, Ki Sisa, as one of the Torah portions read in the order of weekly portions, takes precedence as evident from the halachic rule, “When there is a conflict between something which is constant and something which is not constant, the entity which is constant takes precedence.” The reading of Parah, however, is also significant. Indeed, the expression “additional offerings,” implies that it adds a dimension that is not contributed by the regular order.

Although these two readings represent different concepts, the fact that they are read on a single Shabbos and follow in continuation, one after the other, indicates that they share a connection. To explain:

Parshas Parah, which describes the offering of the Red Heifer (the parah adumah), begins, “This is the decree of the Torah.” This indicates that its significance extends beyond the laws of the Red Heifer and relates to the Torah in its entirety. It reveals two tendencies, ratzo (a yearning to cling to G‑d) and shov (the willingness to return to this world to carry out G‑d’s will) which are fundamental thrusts in Torah and mitzvos. The burning of the Red Heifer refers to the service of ratzo and the use of “living water in a vessel” refers to the service of shov.

The burning of the heifer with fire represents the thrust of ascending upward, ratzo. Fire, were it not held below by the wick, would ascend to its source in the spiritual realms. Water, on the other hand, naturally descends from above to below.1 The purification process of the Red Heifer is accomplished by joining both qualities.

Similarly, the fusion of these two qualities, ratzo, elevating of the world from its material state and bringing it close to G‑d,2 and shov, drawing holiness and G‑dliness into the world through Torah and mitzvos, represent the “decree of the Torah,” the general thrust of the Torah as a whole.

The union of these two tendencies is also reflected within a Jew. “The candle of G‑d is the soul of man.” Our souls have a natural tendency to surge upward to cling to their source in G‑dliness. In contrast, our bodies come from the element of dust, and therefore, are characterized by the tendency to descend.

Similarly, we bring about a twofold change in the world, causing it to be referred to as eretz and reflect the quality of ratzo, desiring (ratztah) to fulfill the will of its Creator. Simultaneously, we draw down holiness within the context of this world. These two thrusts bring out a complete unity between the world and G‑d, a unity that is only possible through the influence of G‑d’s essence which unites opposites.

Ratzo and shov are fundamental thrusts in Torah, not merely because of the unity they can bring about within the world, but because these two tendencies reflect positive qualities which must be emulated in our service of G‑d.3 A Jew must possess the quality of ratzo. He must not be content with remaining at his present level, but must always seek to advance further.4 He must always be “running to fulfill a mitzvah.” Even though he has reached a high level, he must always seek to attain higher peaks.

In contrast, ratzo alone is insufficient and it is necessary to internalize all the new levels reached, making sure that they become part of his nature. This is reflected in an approach of tranquility and settledness (shov). It does not, however, imply complacency. Rather, the internalization of one level produces the desire to reach higher peaks. After reaching those new peaks, one must work to internalize them, which, in turn produces a desire to reach even higher peaks.

These two thrusts of ratzo and shov are expressed in the study of Torah (as emphasized by the expression, “This is the decree of the Torah”). Indeed, the existence of these thrusts within Torah is the source for their existence on all other planes. These two thrusts are revealed in the process of pilpul, the give and take of Torah debate. One begins by questioning, searching for a deeper insight. The resolution of the question allows the idea to be internalized. This, in turn, provokes a deeper and more revealing question.

There is an approach to Torah study which searches for halachic decisions directly without questions and answers. This approach, reflected in the Jerusalem Talmud, has many advantages. Nevertheless, the approach of give and take, of questioning and searching for answers, struggling to penetrate to the depths of the matter, brings out a clearer and broader understanding. This approach is revealed in the Babylonian Talmud and, therefore, when there is a difference in opinion between the two, the halachah follows the Babylonian Talmud.

Based on the above, we can understand why the Babylonian Talmud was composed “approximately 100 years after the Jerusalem Talmud.” In study, one must proceed step by step, accomplishing the easier objectives before undertaking the more difficult ones. Therefore, at first, the Talmud was presented in a direct, clearly outlined approach (the Jerusalem Talmud), and afterwards, through the process of the give and take of questions and answers.5

The ratzo and shov in Torah produces a series of other similar movements in other spheres of behavior. Firstly, in regard to the fulfillment of mitzvos: The positive and negative commandments are themselves reflections of the thrusts of ratzo and shov. More particularly, the pattern of “one mitzvah draws another after it,” reflects that there is a constant process of ascent through the movements of ratzo and shov in the fulfillment of mitzvos. Fulfilling one mitzvah leads him to seek the fulfillment of other mitzvos (ratzo). At the same time, the higher levels he reaches become internalized and settled within his personality (shov).6

Below the level of mitzvos, even when a Jew is involved in the day to day routines of mundane reality, he has a desire to relate to G‑d (ratzo) and fulfills that desire by carrying out “all his deeds for the sake of Heaven,” and “knowing G‑d in all your ways” (shov).

Furthermore, even when a Jew is sunk in the material affairs of the world and does not live “for the sake of Heaven,” the service of parah adumah generates the power for him to ascend, in a manner of ratzo and shov, from his present state. This is alluded to by the fact that the parah adumah purified people who contracted impurity from contact with a human corpse, the most serious level of impurity.

As a reflection of the depths this purification process reaches, the rites connected with the parah adumah were performed outside the Sanctuary. Nevertheless, the priest had to be “facing the Tent of Meeting,” opposite the Beis HaMikdash. This alludes to the service of teshuvah. This is reflected in ratzo, a tremendous desire to cling to G‑d, the power of that desire intensified by the fact that previously, one had been separated from Him, and shov, an expression of that desire in an increased commitment to the service of Torah and mitzvos.

The intensity of one’s desire to cling to G‑d is reflected in the burning of the Red Heifer. Indeed, we see a difference between the service of the Red Heifer and all the other sacrifices. In regard to all the other sacrifices, a portion of the animal, its hide and in certain cases, parts of its meat, remained after it was offered on the altar.7 In contrast, the Red Heifer was burnt completely, totally consumed by fire, “its hide, its flesh, its, blood, and its excrement.” All that was left was ashes.8

This refers to an all-encompassing fire of desire for G‑d, one which consumes every aspect of the person’s being, negating entirely the unproductive desires of the animal soul. All that remains is “ash,” i.e., the basic power of desire. That desire then becomes directed to holiness as our sages commented on the verse, “And you shall love the L‑rd, your G‑d, with all your heart,” “with both your desires.”

Similarly, this approach requires an emphasis on shov, on internalizing all one’s achievements in a complete manner. Our Sages say that a person should say, “From my perspective, there is no difference whether I eat kosher or treif, I eat kosher only because G‑d commanded me to do so.” Chassidic thought explains, however, that this refers only to a tzaddik. A baal teshuvah must feel that there is no way that he could possibly transgress G‑d’s will. Similarly, the service of the parah adumah involves internalizing one’s commitment in an absolute manner.

Parshas Parah gives a Jew the potential to carry out the services of ratzo and shov on all levels. This means that he should not remain on his previous level, but must seek to ascend upward (ratzo). Nevertheless, these efforts should not cause him to break his previous nature. Instead, they must become internalized and settled within his personality (shov).

Each individual’s service of ratzo and shov differs according to the particular thrust of his individual personality. There is, however, a common denominator to all of these efforts. A person must go beyond his nature. A person whose nature involves a settled approach to Torah, prayer, and mitzvos, must feel a desire to reach a much higher level (ratzo). Similarly, he must desire to reach out to another Jew and help him proceed further in Torah and mitzvos.

Similarly, a person who is constantly striving to ascend higher must also realize the need to change his nature and understand the importance of internalizing his spiritual achievements (shov). This must also be reflected in one’s service of refining and elevating the material elements of one’s environment. Charging another person with this responsibility is not enough. Since each person has his own portion of the world, everyone has the responsibility of elevating his individual portion.

These two services of ratzo and shov must always follow one another, thus, place a person on a continuous pattern of growth and development.

2. The above concepts also share a connection with this week’s Torah reading, parshas Ki Sisa. The literal translation of the opening verse of the portion is, “When you elevate the heads of the children of Israel.” This refers to the service of ratzo for it implies that even the head, which is by nature higher than all the other limbs of the human body,9 must be uplifted and seek to reach a higher rung.10

This reading also places an emphasis on the approach of shov, as evident from the verse, “a person shall give atonement for his soul,” indicating that this process of development will effect the totality of the person’s being and establish complete unity with G‑d.11 This is also drawn down into the world at large as indicated by the fact that the half-shekel was used for the sockets for the Sanctuary, i.e., the foundation of G‑d’s dwelling within the world.

This service has an effect, not only on “the heads of the children of Israel,” but even on those on the lowest levels. Thus, our Sages related that through the giving of the half-shekel, atonement was made for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Based on the above, we can appreciate the pattern of the readings, Zachor, Parah, and HaChodesh. The remembrance of Amalek on Shabbos Zachor (and subsequently, Amalek’s obliteration on Purim) nullify the coldness which a Jew might feel in the service of G‑d.12 Shabbos Parah describes the kindling of a huge fire which will encompass every aspect of a person’s being. These levels are afterwards drawn down into this world through the service of shov.

This service prepares a person for parshas HaChodesh, a renewal of his being, and a “month of redemption,” as our Sages declared, “In Nissan, our ancestors were redeemed, and in Nissan, we will be redeemed in the future.”

A similar pattern can be seen in the Torah portions, Ki Sisa and Vayakhel-Pekudei (which are combined this year). Ki Sisa reflects the services of ratzo and shov by the entire Jewish people, both “the heads of the children of Israel” and those who require “atonement for their souls.” After this level has been reached, we read parshas Vayakhel which emphasizes the necessity of Jewish unity, joining each and every member of our people into a single collective entity.

This portion, however, is read together with parshas Pekudei, indicating that joining together with others will not minimize one’s individual importance. Each person is counted individually and thus, attains the level of a devar sheb’minyan (“an entity which is counted”). Our Sages declared, “A devar sheb’minyan can never be nullified.”

Both parshas Parah and parshas Ki Sisa are unique, and are read once a year.13 This implies that they have the power to teach a lesson that is applicable throughout the entire year. Surely, this applies to these lessons which describe the services of ratzo and shov which, as explained above, are relevant to the totality of our service of Torah and mitzvos.

This is particularly true at present when every individual knows his limitations and does not need extensive meditation to discover the areas in which he needs to advance in the manner of ratzo and shov. In particular, these efforts must be expressed in a matter of present concern, providing every individual with his needs for the Pesach holiday. For this purpose, each person should give generously, beyond the limits of a tenth or a fifth of his income.14 Furthermore, these gifts should be given in a manner of ratzo, i.e., one should search after the person collecting tzedakah and give him the money without waiting for him to ask for it.

May these efforts of ratzo, hurrying to complete all the service dependent upon us, cause Mashiach to hurry, and come in the immediate future. We have already completed all the service dependent upon us, including the service of “the soldiers of the House of David,” who must nullify the influence of “those who disgraced the footsteps of Your Mashiach.”15 We have already “polished the buttons” and have nothing more to do than wait for Mashiach.16 Then, “G‑d will be blessed forever. Amen and Amen,” i.e., G‑dly light will be drawn down into the world.