Chukas Balak - Outside the gates

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There once was a man who used to visit Rebbe Nachman whenever he came to Breslov. Fortunately, this man’s business become wildly successful but, unfortunately he was always so busy he never came to visit Rebbe Nachman anymore and he barely had any time to Daven or learn. Once, while he was rushing around Breslov on business Rebbe Nachman saw him and called him in to his study. “Did you look at the sky today?” Rebbe Nachman asked. The merchant confirmed that he had not looked at the sky today. Calling him over to the window, Rebbe Nachman said, “Tell me, what do you see outside?” “I see wagons and horses and people running from one deal to the next” the man replied. “Believe me,” Rebbe Nachman said to him, “Fifty years from now there will be other merchants and markets. There will be other horses, other wagons – different people. What is here today will no longer be. What pressure are you under? What’s making you so busy that you don’t even have time to look at Heaven?”

Our Parsha this week discusses the Parah Adumah, the red heifer, which is used to purify someone from Tumah of coming into contact with a dead person. This mitzvah of Parah Adumah is a chok; it is above any rationale we can comprehend and while we may not know the reason for the Mitzvah itself we can learn many lessons from the procedure of purifying the impure with the Parah Adumah’s ashes. Practically speaking it is understandable that the Parah Adumah procedure is performed outside of the Mishkan or Beis Hamikdash as a ritually impure person cannot enter into these places of Holiness. Yet to everything in the Torah there is a deeper meaning we can hope to apply to our personal Avodas Hashem.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches us that deeper meaning.

Many times we may feel spiritually up, we feel a good connection and things are going smoothly. Yet sometimes we feel the opposite, we feel like we have plunged deep into a raging, stormy sea. We feel so distant and removed from anything holy. How will we ever return to God from this far out place? Rebbe Nachman says that there is no distance far enough and no impurity strong enough to separate us from God. We see this from the procedure of the Parah Adumah which was done outside the gates of holiness, teaching us that even when we feel we are in a place distant from holiness there is always a method and a route back to holiness and purity. Even if we feel overwhelmed by all that is going on around us and we neglect our spiritual wellbeing for so long, one glance up to God can bring us so much closer to Him. Even if we stand outside of the gates of the holiest places, running around to do everything else with zeal except daven, except learn, except chesed, when we eventually try to do something holy it might feel so foreign to us and we may lose hope. But we cannot lose hope.

The Parah Adumah teaches us that from the greatest impurities there is a route back to holiness, and with each step we come closer to entering back into those holy places, once again feeling that great connection and smooth sailing.