Keep It Clean: Hukkat 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you consider yourself to be an inclusive person? In what ways are you most inclusive? Can you think of ways you can be more inclusive?

The unique ancient ritual of the sacrifice of the red heifer enables many different Israelites to participate in sacred work:

The Pitch: “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the cow and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place, to be kept for water of lustration for the Israelite community. It is for cleansing.” – Numbers 19:9

Swing #1: “[The verse states] ‘a man’ to qualify a non-priest [to perform this stage of the rite. The verse states] ‘clean’ to qualify a woman [to perform this stage. The verse states] ‘and deposit’ [to indicate that only] one who has [the basic level of] intelligence to [be able] to [intentionally] place [the ashes in their place is qualified to do so] …” – BT Yoma 43a

Swing #2: “Were an impure person to do this, the effect of the whole rite would be undone.” – Baruch A. Levine, Numbers 1-20

Swing #3: “Everyone’s word is accepted with regard to the ritual purity of articles and persons involved in this purification process, even that of the common people. The rationale is that because of all the stringencies and extra measures applied to it, everyone is careful with regard to it. This is alluded to in [this verse]. Implied is that all of Israel are fit for its safekeeping. Therefore if a common person brings an earthenware container from his home and says: ‘This container is pure for the purification process involving the ashes of the red heifer,’ it is considered as pure.” – Mishneh Torah

Late-Inning Questions: Is it notable that the Israelite community is to be trusted to participate in this ritual? Does this seem lenient to you, or appropriate? How much of our religious practice is based on trust?

On-Deck at TBT: We look forward to returning to Camp Centerland for a creative Shabbat service and Tot Shabbat tomorrow from 10:00 a.m.-12 noon, which will include our annual Summer Send-Off. All ages are welcome!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of trusting others, we should no longer trust umpires to call balls and strikes, especially since we have the technology to accurately evaluate whether a ball passes through the strike zone. Using computers to determine this helps to level the playing field and make the game more fair.

Shabbat Shalom!