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December 2, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Dead Read Heifers and the Sanctity of Human Life

By Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald





For sophisticated moderns, this week's Bible reading couldn't seem more abstract, if not totally irrelevant --- until its words are pondered and lessons absorbed

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | In Numbers 19:14 the Torah states: "This is the law regarding a person who dies in a tent: Anything that enters the tent and anything that is in the tent shall be defiled for seven days.

From here we learn that a Jewish person who comes in contact with the dead, by either directly touching a dead body, standing within four cubits of a dead body, or being under the same roof as a dead person, is rendered ritually impure for seven days. Until the defiled person has been purified with the waters of the Red Heifer, s/he is forbidden to enter the camp of the Divine --- the Tabernacle or the Temple in Jerusalem.

The ritual of purification requires all impure persons to approach the Tabernacle or Temple, be sprinkled with the waters of the Red Heifer on the third day and the seventh day, and to immerse in a mikvah (ritual bath) on the night of the eighth to achieve complete absolution.

It is interesting to note that there are varying degrees of ritual impurity. If a first degree ritually impure person, one who has come in direct contact with a dead body and has not yet been purified, touches another person, that person as well is rendered impure until nightfall, when s/he must wash their clothes and immerse in a mikvah. Vessels and foodstuffs may also become impure by coming in contact with the dead or contaminated persons of the first or second degree.

The laws of ritual impurity are extensive and complex. In fact , at first blush, they seem to be incomprehensible, especially today when most of these laws are no longer observed. The only areas of ritual impurity that apply today are the prohibitions for a Cohen (someone of priestly descent) to come in contact with the dead, and the menstruant woman who is considered in a state of ritual impurity until she goes to the mikvah.

While the laws of ritual impurity may seem obscure, obtuse and irrelevant, in truth, they play a key and vital role in Judaism and Jewish life because these laws represent Judaism's way of underscoring the ultimate sanctity of human life.

In fact, it may very well be that the principle of the sanctity of human life is the bottom line of all of Jewish life! It has been cogently argued that every single one of the 613 religious duties (mitzvos), as well as all the derivatives of those mitzvos, can be traced back to the principle of the sanctity of human life.


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Since Judaism regards nothing more sacred or more sanctified than human life, there is nothing more contaminating or defiling than death. Therefore, anyone who comes in contact with death, is automatically defiled.

The principle of the sanctity of human life is reflected in many of Judaism's laws and rituals. A Jew, upon waking in the morning, says: "Mo'deh ah'nee," Thank you G0d for restoring my soul, then proceeds to washes one's hands, alternating each hand three times in the same manner in which one's hands are washed after visiting a cemetery. Washing in this manner after rising from sleep, in effect, affirms the principle of the sanctity of human life. After all, sleep and unconsciousness are the closest thing to death that a person experiences.

Reciting blessings over foods, again reaffirms the principle of the sanctity of life, reflecting our appreciation to the Ultimate Provider for our nourishment. Not eating meat and milk together emphasizes that a human being who takes an animal's life in order to eat meat, should not at the same meal drink milk --- the substance that would have sustained that animal's life. Of course, the regulations of charity and caring for the poor, the infirm, the widow, not causing undue pain to animals, all play a powerful role in advancing the principle of the sanctity of human life, as well as teaching respect for animal life.

In effect, Judaism maintains that each time a person comes in contact with death, that person is reduced as a human being. Judaism is especially concerned that frequent contact with death will render those who survive indifferent or inured to human life. The challenge faced in the 21st Century to maintain an exalted respect for human life, may in fact be greater than at anytime in human history.

Because of today's modern technology, the volume and rapidity of reports of death is far greater than ever before. It is not uncommon for people to read about major earthquakes with thousands of victims, and simply turn the page. Reports of a tsunami with hundreds of thousands of victims may disturb us for several hours or several days, and then be quickly relegated to the ash heap. The fact that leaders of large metropolitan areas in the United States like New York City proudly celebrate the "decline" in the number of murders while hundreds of people are still murdered annually in these cities, is nothing less than "obscene"! All this only goes to underscore how quickly human beings are reduced by the constant exposure, indeed overexposure, to human suffering and death.

If some form of the laws of the Red Heifer were still practiced today, requiring that each person who is exposed to death travel to Jerusalem or to some "special" location and undergo a ritual affirmation of life, there is little question that people would not be as lackadaisical and indifferent to the principle of the sanctity of life, as much of society is today. That is why the ritual of the Red Heifer must not be allowed to pass into obscurity. It is not enough to read this text twice a year as part of the annual cycle of the Torah reading (a second reading of this text takes place after Purim).

It is important that we see the implications of the Red Heifer in every one of the mitzvos and rituals that we perform.

My friend, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, has made an acute observation, noting that most people are annoyed when the sounds of fire engines or ambulances disturb their peace and tranquility. He suggests that it is important that whenever such alarms are heard, that we utter a silent prayer that the rescue vehicles reach the victims in time, and that no one will be seriously hurt. It is this heightened awareness and sensitivity to the sanctity of human life that the Torah rituals constantly try to reinforce.

It is an important lesson, that is probably more relevant today than at any time in human history.

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Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald heads the National Jewish Outreach Program.


Previously:


The big 'IF': The Question of Free Choice

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident --- or do we?

Bringing the Divine Home

To change a world






© 2011, National Jewish Outreach Program