JWR Outlook

Jewish World Review April 4, 2003 / 2 Nisan, 5763

No escape

By Rabbi Berel Wein

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | Many ritual purity practices discussed in the Torah and Talmud can no longer be fulfilled in absence of the Holy Temple. Still, the concepts at their core remain valid for all times and are indeed still influential in Jewish life to this very day.

Thus, in this week's Torah reading, we read of the purification process of a woman after giving birth.

It is interesting to note that the actions that produce new life are at once the very same ones that render the person ritually impure. In the value system of Judaism, life -- its creation and maintenance -- is paramount. At first blush, this seems paradoxical. But therein lies a great message.

Ours is an impure world, to put it mildly. Within each of us, there is an inner voice that beckons for our escape and abandonment from this darkness. Monks and the monastic existence are an old story in the human saga. "Stop the world, I want to get off!" is an idea that appeals to many. Who wouldn't love to live in a pristine and pure world, a world where we do not have to dirty our hands and sully our talents? But by design, the L-rd placed us in a world that is imperfect. If we wish to create new life, to advance the values and causes that can make this a better world, then we will perforce have to deal with the world's impurity.

And while the Torah details the spiritual impurity in giving new life to this world, it also describes how one can regain a state of purity. The process of raising one's self from impurity and washing away that impurity - physically and symbolically - this, is Judaism's message.

We are here to produce new life --- but then to purify ourselves. We must not attempt to escape from the realities of this impure world. Rather, we are enjoined to realize that we are able somehow to improve and even purify this world and our society. Life, which is the vehicle of purity, marches together with its creation that necessitates impurity. This paradox is in itself the reality of life, death and the human story. As such, it is perhaps the most relevant lesson that the Torah can teach us.

This Sabbath marks the bar mitzvah day of my grandson, Yakov Nechemia Gewirtz. Becoming bar mitzva automatically means entering the world of impurity, of struggling to create life and of attempting to raise one's self and one's society to purity and morality. I pray that he and all of my family will prove equal to this --- the main task of Jewish life and Judaism itself. There can be no greater accomplishment in life than this.

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JWR contributor Rabbi Berel Wein is one of Jewry's foremost historians and founder of the Destiny Foundation. He has authored over 650 tapes, books and videos which you can purchase at RabbiWein.com. Comment by clicking here or calling 1-800-499-WEIN (9346).


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© 2002, Rabbi Berel Wein