This weekend we read Parshas Shemini. It is also called Parshas Para, which is the third week of the special readings we have before Passover. The word Para refers to a heifer. The particular heifer we are referring to was the red heifer that was used for ritual purification, to allow Jews to enter the Temple. The reason we read this before Passover, is because in the times of the Temple Jews had to purify themselves before Passover, so that they could bring the Paschal lamb.
The law of the red heifer is considered the classic “chok” – or “decree” of the Torah. It is a mitzvah for which we have no understandable reason. Even King Solomon, the wisest of all men, did not understand the reason for this law. What is the reason for a mitzvah that has no reason? Why was this mitzvah performed, and today read about, right before Passover?
By nature, we like to be accepted by others. No normal person likes to be looked at as being strange, or weird. When the Torah tells us to perform the mitzvah of the red heifer, even though it is a “chok” – or “decree”, it is telling us that we must be so strong in our commitment to Torah and the mitzvohs, that even if we don’t know why we are doing it, we still keep it. The strength and bravery to be able to do that is the ultimate sign of loyalty to G-d. I recognize that He, and only He, knows what really is right. Even if I don’t know why I’m doing something, if He tells me to do it, I do so.
This beautiful lesson is taught to us right before Passover. As we prepare to celebrate this beautiful Holiday with all its meaning, and we delve into the messages of the Matzah, of Chometz, of Marror, (the bitter herbs), and of the rest of the Exodus and the Passover seder, let us not forget the most important point of all. Ultimately, we must recognize that we are the servants of G-d, and that our job in this world is to do His will. Whether we do understand it or we don’t the red heifer reminds us that true servants of their master do His bidding. When we want to call ourselves loyal servants of G-d, we must make sure that we are accepting His will in all aspects of our lives.