Discussing this week’s portion of the “red heifer”, my student Jack Hodari highlights the combination of the ‘humble” and the “lively”.
The purification process to enable an Israelite access to the sanctuary involved the use of water, the hyssop grass, and the pot, all basic, humble and simple ingredients, although the water is described as “living”: there is a vital energy as its active component. The mix of energetic and humble is purifying.
Jack concludes that this is what purification demands: to return to a state of purity, we need to become at once humble and youthful. The waters are basic, but invigorating.
The hyssop (oregano) is used in three Torah sacrificial procedures: the red heifer, in this week’s reading; the pascal lamb and the leper’s return.
In each case, blood and water are mixed and the brittle and lowly, yet fragrant hyssop grass used to cast this mixture at the applicant for purity.
Jack points out human beings all begin from a mix of blood and amniotic water, indicating that each entry after impurity is a rebirth.
This thought is especially poignant for me as my wife and I celebrate the birth and brit of our son, Elijah Ezra.
This week, Aaron dies, handing over the mantle of priesthood to his son, Elazar.
The remainder of this week’s reading records the attempts of the Israelites to traverse through Canaanite territory.
They fought against the Canaanite king of Arad and Og and Sichon on the east bank of the Jordan, but avoided battling the Edomites as they are cousins. No matter what the cause, family should do what it can to defuse tensions.
Rabbi Abel serves Liverpool Old Hebrew Congregation and is padre to HM Armed Forces