|Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person “goes up” to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.
1st Aliya: The Parsha begins with the Mitzvah of Shabbos and the penalty for her transgression. Note that Pasuk 35:5 is classic proof of the Oral Law. Those who deny the Oral Law must explain the literal translation of this verse to prohibit having any burning flame on Shabbos. This would forbid the use of lights, heat, and even Shabbos candles! It is the Oral Law which teaches us that the G-d’s prohibition was directed at lighting a fire, not having a fire. Moshe asked the Bnai Yisroel to donate the time, talents, and materials for the construction of the Mishkan. The Bnai Yisroel responded with unbridled enthusiasm.
2nd Aliya: Talents and materials were donated and Betzallel and Oholiav were appointed as chief architects and artists. The response to Moshe’s appeal was so great that Moshe had to command the people to stop their donations! (see, miracles do happen!) The outer coverings of the Mishkan and the inner tapestries are detailed. The beams of the Mishkan, the Aron Hakodesh, and the Shulchan – Table are described.
3rd & 4th Aliyot: The Menorah and the inner Golden Altar are described. The outer ramped Altar, the Washstand, and the Mishkan’s surrounding enclosure are detailed. Pekudei begins with an accounting of the materials used in the construction of the Mishkan. (gold = 4,386.5 lb./ silver = 15,088.75 lb./ copper = 10,620 lb.)
5th & 6th Aliyot: The Kohein Gadol’s breastplate and vest are described. The remaining garments of the Kohein Gadol and the other Kohanim are detailed, and Moshe inspects the completed Mishkan. Moshe certifies that the entire project followed the exact details of Hashem’s instructions. Moshe blesses the workers.
7th Aliya: On the 1st day of Nissan, 2449, the Mishkan was assembled. After every vessel was properly in place, the presence of Hashem, the Shechina, descended in a cloud and filled the Mishkan.
This week, in addition to the regular Parsha, we read the section known as Parah. The additional sections of Shekalim, Zachor, Parah, and Chodesh are read prior to Pesach for both commemorative and practical reasons. Shekalim, the first additional section, dealt with the 1/2 Shekel and the public sacrifices. The reading of the second section, Zachor, facilitated our fulfillment of the Mitzvah to remember the evil of Amalek. The two sections of Parah and Chodesh are directed toward our preparations for Pesach.
On Parshas Parah, we read the section found in the beginning of Parshas Chukas known as Parah. This section discusses the necessary steps that had to be followed to remove the impurity which caused by having had contact with a dead person. This process involved a seven day period during which the impure – Tameh person underwent a process involving the ashes of the Red Heifer. The process was facilitated by a Kohen, and had to take place in Yerushalayim.
The status of being Tameh restricted a person from entering into the Temple compound and / or participating in certain select activities. Although these restrictions are less applicable today because we do not have the Bais Hamikdash; nevertheless, it is incumbent upon all people, male and female, to keep these laws to the degree that they do apply.
In the time of the Bais Hamikdash it was required of every male adult to visit the Bais Hamikdash and offer a sacrifice a minimum of three times a year: Pesach, Shevout, and Succoth. However, it was even more important to be there on Erev Pesach to sacrifice the Korban Pesach – Pascal Lamb. Anyone who happened to be Tameh, from having had contact with a dead body, would have to undergo the process of the Parah Adumah – the Red Heifer, to remove the status of Tameh and be allowed to bring his Pascal Lamb to the Bais Hamikdash.
The Talmud tells us that the furthest point in Israel from Yerushalayim was a two weeks travel. If so, a person who was Tameh living two weeks travel away would require a minimum of three weeks to arrive in Yerushalayim with sufficient time to go through the one week process of the Red Heifer and be able to offer his Korban Pesach. Therefore, Chazal ordained the reading of Parah on the week before the reading of Chodesh as a public reminder to those who are Tameh that they must immediately arrange to get to Yerushalayim so that they can purify themselves in time to bring the Korban Pesach.
Summary of The Haftorah: Haftorah Parah
This week’s Haftorah reflects the reading of Parshas Parah. Yechezkel, the prophet, berated the people for their defection away from G-d. Their behavior defiled Eretz Yisroel rendering them unfit to remain within her boundaries. Therefore, the Jews had to be exiled from their land and dispersed among the nations. The exile and the consequent suffering while in exile would serve as a process purification process for the nation. In essence, the exile would be a national Parah Adumah – Red Heifer.
Central to the theme of the Haftorah is the fact that Hashem ultimately redeems the nation, “for His own sake.” While in exile the Jews are able to spread the word of G-d and teach His existence to the other nations. However, exile will also take its toll on the Jews. The Jews interaction with other nations will result in furthering the very defection which caused G-d to first punish the nation.
Among the mysteries of the Parah Adumah is the fact that the Kohen who administers the ashes becomes impure while the recipient of the ashes becomes pure. In essence this is the experience of the Jew in exile. The Jews have brought knowledge and understanding of G-d to the nations wherein which they were exiled, while at the same time suffering terrible persecution and assimilation through their association with the non-Jewish world. The nations have become pure while the Jews have become impure.
In the end G-d will redeem the nation and gather them in from the four- corners of the earth, “for His own sake.” The time will come when the purpose of the Jew in exile will have been fulfilled. Then, there will be no further reason for the Jew to remain among the other nations and G-d will renew His covenant with the Bnai Yisroel and return them to Eretz Yisroel.