Rabbi Oury Cherki
Parashat Para (Haftarah) - Purity of Awareness
Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.
While the special Torah reading of Parshat Parah involves the purification of a single individual who is ritually impure, the Haftarah discusses the purification of the entire community (Ezekiel 36:16-38). Personal impurity is a halachic matter which has practical implications for a person's life. However, general impurity leads to removal of the Shechina as a result of the effects of sin in general and of specific very serious sins. There are three types of impurity: the impurity of idol worship, the impurity of illicit sex and the impurity of murder. With respect to idol worship, it is written: "In order to make My Temple impure" [Leviticus 20:3]. About illicit sex, it is written: "Preserve My guard and do not do any of the abominable laws... and do not become contaminated through them" [18:30]. And for murder: "And you shall not contaminate the land" [Numbers 35:34]" [Shavuot 7:2].
In the Haftarah, the prophet first describes the harsh facts: "Son of man, the House of Israel dwell on their land, and they have made it impure with their ways and their actions" [Ezekiel 36:9]. However, a hint is also given of a possible way of mending the situation: "Their path before me was like the ritual impurity of the "nidah" [a woman with a menstrual flow]". The contamination of a nidah is temporary, and the impurity can be removed. In the same way, the contamination due to the actions of the community of Israel will leave the world when redemption comes.
The impurity that was caused by the contaminated actions in the Land of Israel also creates a new kind of impurity – the impurity of the exile. This is linked to greater harm than the first impurity, described above, including the desecration of the name of G-d. "They say about them: 'Are these people the nation of G-d, who were forced to leave His land?' " [36:20]. And that explains what is written: "Would that they could continue dwelling on their land even though they contaminate it" [Midrash Eicha 3:7; Yalkut Shimoni], since the exile itself is an even greater fault.
The words of the prophet seem to correspond very well to the opinion that redemption does not require repentance by the people, since it is in the best interest of the Divine. (In the Talmud, Shmuel said: "It is sufficient for a mourner to maintain his mourning" [Sanhedrin 97b]). However, it seems that in this case there is another emphasis – that redemption gives birth to a changed awareness among the people which could not have been achieved in exile. Only after the fulfillment of the verse "I will take you out of the other nations, and I will gather you from all the lands, and I will bring you to your land" [36:24] can we also expect the fulfillment of the verse "And I will sprinkle you with holy water, and you will be purified from all your contamination, and I will remove all your impurities from you" [36:25].
The link between repentance and redemption is that repentance depends on redemption but redemption does not depend on repentance. The reason for this is that true repentance must include the return of the general nationalistic dimension. It is not sufficient to enhance individual spirituality, which might lead to a restriction of the horizons of life. The result is that transformation of the heart of stone into a heart of flesh (36:26) will lead to a spiritual revolution: "And I will place My spirit within you, and I will cause you to follow the path of My laws and observe My decrees, and you will fulfill them all" [36:27].