Last week, I found myself writing about the tragedy of a murdered family, while anticipating someone reading it in the midst of the joys of Purim. This week finds me experiencing the throes of an effervescent Purim, while visualizing the lessons of a Parshas Parah, in which we will be reading (on Shabbos) about the procedure prescribed by the Torah for cleansing oneself of a specific tumah (ritual impurity). When the Beis Hamikdash stood, all Jews who were tamei because of such contact would cleanse themselves of the tumah at this time of year, so as to be able to bring and eat the korban Pesach. The procedure centered around the mei parah, the waters of the parah adumah, a combination of the ashes of a burnt red heifer and spring water. Reading about this procedure is an obligation, some say required by the Torah.
The haftarah describes a purification of a different sort (or perhaps not so different) — a spiritual purification, to be brought upon us by Hakadosh Baruch Hu at some future time, in which He is described as “sprinkling upon Bnei Yisroel purifying waters,” meaning that Hashem will remove every vestige of tumah (caused by sin) from the souls of Bnei Yisroel, and bring upon them a new spirit of purity. When this will happen, what will bring it about, and in what historical context it will occur is not stated clearly — yet it may be worthwhile to study the haftarah (taken from Yechezkel, 36) and at least see how the navi himself describes the events leading up to it, and what might be the elements that serve as catalysts.
The haftarah begins with the navi describing the causes of Bnei Yisroel being exiled and the Beis Hamikdash destroyed. Bnei Yisroel desecrated the holiness of Eretz Yisroel through their sins and misdeeds and thus deserved to be expelled (as the Torah states [see Vayikra 18: 24 — 28]). Sin causes spiritual impurity, a distancing from Hashem, and there are some particular sins more than others which “spill over” from the person himself/herself onto the very holiness of the Land. (Interestingly, the posuk here compares this tumah to tumas nidah, which provides some measure of comfort; communication and sharing continue, and the tumah state is inherently temporary. Hashem is telling us that we can and we will rid ourselves of our sins and return to Him.)
Nevertheless, at that point, the cardinal sins of Bnei Yisroel caused the Land to expel them. Once expelled, the navi says, we will be scattered throughout the nations of the world, and dispersed in their lands. This is probably the most direct allusion to the destruction of the second Beis Hamikdash there is, as it is not until the destruction of the Bayis Sheni that the Jews are dispersed throughout the world.
Now comes a key passage, one that is ironically cause for optimism, although it describes a most undesirable state of affairs. We will learn that the exile and Diaspora of Bnei Yisroel are a tremendous cause of chilul Hashem — a desecration of Hashem’s Name — for the nations of the world see that Hashem’s Chosen People had to leave their — His — Land, thus leading them, the gentiles, to assume that Hashem could not, chalilah, prevent their enemies from expelling them. (And when one takes into account the centuries upon centuries of persecutions, killings, expulsions, oppressions and massacres, down to the horrors of the unprecedented Holocaust, the massive chilul Hashem is mind-boggling.) The gentiles do not ascribe our sufferings to our sins, but rather to Hashem’s, k’vayochol, “weakness,” or “impotence.” Thus, the navi teaches us, Hashem “must” redeem His Nation in order to “vindicate” His honor. (This has historical precedence in the geulah from Mitzrayim, as the pesukim in Shemos describe again and again Hashem’s “interest” in having Par’oh and Mitzayim recognize Him.)
The haftarah (Yechezkel 36:21-23) makes it abundantly clear: “And I had pity on My Holy Name which Bnei Yisroel dishonored among the Nations where they came to. Therefore, tell Bnei Yisroel: It is not for your sake that I will do this, but rather for the sake of My Holy Name… and I will sanctify My great Name which was profaned amongst the nations… and the nations shall know that I am Hashem Elokim, when I will be sanctified through you (i.e., by your being redeemed) before their eyes.”
The next posuk continues, “And I will take you from the Nations, gather you from all the countries, and bring you to your Land.” And so we are being told, explicitly, that Hashem has, k’vayochol a “compelling reason” to bring about our geulah — kiddush (and avoiding chilul) Hashem.
And so, what MUST occur? After all, our sins led to the exile and its aftermath… something must change, must it not?
“And I will sprinkle upon you cleansing waters, and I will cleanse you from all your impurities and false idols. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit… a Divine spirit, and I will cause you to walk in My ways and keep My commandments.” (pesukim 25-27)
“And you shall dwell safely in the Land… you will be My people and I will be your G-d.” (posuk 28)
“I will not bring the redemption for your sakes — realize that!” (posuk 32)
We will not deserve it; Hashem will bring it about for His sake. It will technically happen after a brought-about-by-Hashem new spirit of teshuvah and purity take hold in our service of Him.
Rabbosai, and ladies, I find this very comforting. Yes, we must better our ways, and merit redemption. Yet I need not “worry” that it chas veshalom won’t happen, or that it will only happen at some future hazy indeterminate point, or that “why should it happen in our generation if it hasn’t happened in more worthy ones?” It will happen, and it could happen, and soon, if we but “pick up” on the spiritual cleanliness that Hashem is sending our way, for reasons that He has, and that our haftarah makes us privy to.