April 11, 2024
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The heilige Ribnitzer Rebbe, Reb Chaim Zanvil Abramowitz, zy”a, was an extraordinary tzadik and a legendary baal avodah whose sacrifice for Yidishkeit and holiness engulfed all the different places he lived—Russia, Romania, Eretz Yisrael, Los Angeles and Monsey—bringing down blessings for petitioners across the globe. Describing the Ribnitzer’s righteousness, Reb Shlomo Freifeld, zt”l, rosh yeshivah of Shor Yoshuv, said meeting him was like meeting a tzadik from the days of the Baal Shem Tov.

The Ribnitzer was known for his other-worldly ascetic ways, fasting often and dedicated with mesirus nefesh to taharah, ritual purity. One Motzaei Shabbos while on a mid-winter trip to Eretz Yisrael, the Rebbe expressed his desire to toivel, to immerse in the mikvah. However, he was suffering from a bad cold, it was raining and late at night, and the nearest mikvah was a considerable distance away. Acknowledging the physical circumstances, yet determined to attain the highest levels of purity, he instructed the small group of chasidim accompanying him to stand together, hold hands and form a tight circle. He then entered the human ring and proceeded to crouch down then rise up several times, “immersing himself” in their midst. The Rebbe finally recited the words Mikveh Yisrael Hashem (Mishnah Yoma, 8:9), literally “The hope of Israel is Hashem,” and interpreted in different ways, including “Hashem longs for His children,” “HaKadosh Baruch Hu purifies Yisrael,” and Mikveh Yisrael, “a mikveh of Yidden”…

Having immersed in the luminous pool of pure Jewish souls, the Ribnitzer was joyous and ready to continue on his way.

***

Our sedra addresses an array of elements required to live a life of holiness, including the uplifting and restorative power of a mikvah. The name and opening of our sedra refers to the consecration of the Mishkan—itself an experience representing tikun and spiritual rejuvenation:

Vayehi bayom ha-shemini… “On the eighth day” following seven days of inauguration of the Mishkan, Aharon haKohein and his sons begin to offer korbanos, and the Shechinah, the Divine Presence dwelled in the Sanctuary…

וַיָּבֹא משֶׁה וְאַהֲרֹן אֶל אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וַיֵּצְאוּ וַיְבָרֲכוּ אֶת־הָעָם וַיֵּרָא כְבוֹד ה׳ אֶל כָּל הָעָם:

And Moshe and Aharon went into the Ohel Moed, then came out and blessed the people, and the Glory of Hashem appeared to the Nation (9:23).

Rashi expands on the particular blessings they offered on this most special occasion: ויצאו ויברכו את העם: אמרו ויהי נועם ה׳ אלהינו עלינו, יהי רצון שתשרה שכינה במעשה ידיכם—“May the pleasantness of Hashem be upon us; may it be God’s will that the Shechinah rest on the work of your hands…”

Rashi explains that throughout all seven days of the milu’im, the ceremonial investitures of the Mishkan, Moshe performed the avodah, effortfully erecting and then dismantling the structure daily. During that week, continues Rashi, the Divine Presence was not revealed. The painful lack of the Shechinah’s presence was “humiliating,” and the Jews cried out to Moshe:

כל הטורח שטרחנו, שתשרה שכינה בינינו ונדע שנתכפר לנו עון העגל

“All the efforts we have taken were so that the Shechinah should dwell among us, so that we would know that we have been forgiven for the sin of the Golden Calf!”

Following the shameful episode of Cheit HaEgel, a perceptual “distance” and a state of “impurity” had come between the people and the Holy One, Blessed is He. Moshe led the nation in teshuvah and ascended to the upper worlds to petition Hashem in prayer. Midrash (Pesikta Rabbasi 14) tells us that there, Moshe found the Ribbono shel Olam “learning” the parsha of the Parah Adumah: Zos chukas haTorah, “This is the law of the Torah that transcends logic…” Acknowledging Moshe, Hashem said, Eini osek elah b’taharasan shel Yisrael, “My only job is dealing with the purification of Israel.” The completion of the Mishkan signaled the next stage of our peoplehood, the formal and public expression that our collective teshuvah had been accepted.

The day of the consecration of the Mishkan “was as joyous to the Ribbono Shel Olam as the day on which heaven and earth were created” (Megillah 10b). It was a day when the K’vod Hashem, the honor and glory of God, was once again expressed in a revealed way through the Nation of Israel. The Divine Presence had “returned” and “entered” the Mishkan of Yisrael, “immersing,” as it were, in their midst—‘In the mikveh Yisrael: Hashem.’ And then the Ribono shel Olam was joyous and ready to “continue on His way.”

There is no greater purifying force, no other way to ensure blessing or to reveal the Shechinah, than Jews coming together in teshuvah. On this “Parshas Parah” may we draw down the purifying power of Mikveh Yisrael and together celebrate the consecration of the Temple!

אָמַר רַבִּי עֲקִיבָא אַשְׁרֵיכֶם יִשְׂרָאֵל.
לִפְנֵי מִי אַתֶּם מִטַּהֲרִין וּמִי מְטַהֵר אֶתְכֶם?
אביכם שבשמיים שנאמר, וזרקתי עליכם מים טהורים וטהרתם.
ואומר מקוה ישראל ה
מַה מִּקְוֶה מְטַהֵר אֶת הַטְּמֵאִים אַף הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מְטַהֵר אֶת יִשְׂרָאֵל.

Rabbi Akiva said: How fortunate are you, Israel; before Whom are you purified, and Who purifies you? It is your Father in Heaven, as it is stated: “And I will sprinkle purifying water upon you, and you shall be purified” (Yechezkel 36:25). And it says: “The mikveh of Israel is Hashem” (Yirmiyahu 17:13). Just as a ritual bath purifies the impure, so too, the Holy One, Blessed be He, purifies Israel.


Rav Judah Mischel is executive director of Camp HASC, the Hebrew Academy for Special Children. He is the mashpia of OU-NCSY, founder of Tzama Nafshi and the author of “Baderech: Along the Path of Teshuva.” Rav Judah lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife Ora and their family.

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