By Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Yevamos 73 – Transcending the Limits of Time
If the person who sprinkled the purifying waters of mei-chatas from the parah adumah was a tevul-yom, someone who was tamei and immersed in a mikveh but for whom the sun has not yet set, the sprinkling is valid. Almost paradoxically, we learn this from the seemingly extra word ha’tahor in the pasuk that describes the individual sprinkling the mei-chatas on the tamei person. Rashi explains that since the parah adumah is called chatas, we would have known that everyone involved therein must be tahor. Tosafos explains it differently: since the Torah demands that the finished product of mei-chatas be stored in a tahor location, it goes without saying that the people involved must be tahor.
Either way, what we are left with is the fact that the word ha’tahor in the pasuk is seemingly superfluous. Therefore, we have no choice but to understand that what this is conveying is, as Rashi writes, “tahor kol d’hu”, any degree of tahor. Meaning, even someone who is not fully tahor, but is partway there, suffices. Since, continues Rashi, we do find that a tevul-yom is called tahor, it emerges that it is to him whom the Torah is referring, albeit that he is not 100% tahor (and thus cannot eat terumah) until nightfall.
When reading the pasuk before delving into the rigorous, technical analyses, it is hard not to get the sense that the thrust of it is that the tamei individual needs someone who is tahor to purify him, similar to the concept of having someone who is meritorious gain atonement for someone in need thereof (Yoma 43b). In fact, there is strong support for this from the words of the Zohar in parshas Vayeishev (184b) where it implies that the washing cup from which one pours the water onto his hands in the morning represents bracha and kedusha and it is that strength of kedusha that washes away the tumah of the hands. This idea, implies the Zohar, is the same as that of the pasuk, “V’hizah ha’tahor al ha’tamei”.
The only tumah that requires the sprinkling of mei-chatas to become purified is tumas-meis, the impurity contracted upon coming into contact with or being under the same ohel as a dead body. Something about death produces a tumah that is so strong, that there is an emphasis that he cannot get out of it by himself. He needs someone who is tahor to lift him out of it.
With that in mind, it becomes all the more fascinating that it is that very emphatic insistence that someone who is tahor be the one to sprinkle the mei-chatas on the tamei person that teaches us that the sprinkler does not have to be totally tahor; it is suffices that he is tahor enough to be able to “squeeze” him into the title of tahor. That, in addition to the fact that (because of the galling tzedukim who would not accept the above derasha) the Chachamim would deliberately arrange that the people carrying out the processing of the parah adumah into mei-chatas would specifically be tevulei-yom in order to drive home the fact that this is the halacha!
The Kedushas Levi (in Likutim) makes a comment that may help us get perhaps an inkling into what we can learn from this. He says that this fact that the processing of the parah adumah into mei-chatas and the sprinkling thereof can be done with a tevul-yom serves as an indication that Klal Yisrael has a strength which transcends the normal limits of time. Normally, one does not become fully tahor until the requisite time of nightfall arrives. However, when it comes to parah adumah waiting until nightfall is not necessary.
Obviously, the full depth of the concepts of parah adumah are completely esoteric and way beyond human conception. Even Shlomo Ha’Melech, Chazal say, exclaimed about parah adumah, “I said that I would become wise, but it is far from me!” Nevertheless, there are definitely lessons that we can derive from it on the level at which we are able to understand.
Death, in this world, has an overwhelming feeling of finality to it. The loved ones left behind are prone to a despairing sense of, “This is it; the end!” Despite one’s intellectual awareness of the afterlife, the tangible reality that death throws at the person is so strong that the individual can become stuck in the choking sense of constriction to which the confines of time subjects him. It is wholly possible that he cannot pull himself out. He needs someone else, who is not trapped in that space of constriction, to get him out. Someone who is tahor; free of the toxicity that can be induced by death’s morbidity.
In a certain sense, the best person for the job is someone who is not yet one hundred percent free of tumah. He is still in the transition stage. He has immersed in the mikveh, but he is still not fully tahor since the requisite time has not yet passed. This person, in a certain sense, is the most qualified to reach out, as it were, and lend the tamei individual the supporting hand that will lift him out of his black hole.
The message this conveys is: Look, I was also there. I also had to deal with tumah, and I am now coming out of it. You can also do it. Yes, it is very hard and can feel almost impossible; but it can be done. The constricting confines that the rigid limits of time place on us seem insurmountable. You feel as though you have no other option but to wait until the darkness of night falls upon your own life, so that you can be reunited with your loved one and find the succor for which you so powerfully yearn. But we are Yidden, and Hashem gives us a koach to be able to overcome that constriction of time. We do not necessarily fathom it, but it is most certainly there. You do not need to wait for the darkness of night, because right here and right now Hashem is providing you with the ability to be lifted out of the depths of void, and with the strength to continue on b’eretz ha’chaim.
Rabbi Yehoshua Berman serves as the Rosh Kollel of Kollel Reshet HaDaf in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. Driven by a passion to generate true kinyan Torah, both for himself and others, Rabbi Berman develops innovative tools to getting the most out of what we learn. In addition to having authored the warmly acclaimed Reflections on the Parsha, Rabbi Berman regularly delivers shiurim whose topics range from Halacha to Hashkafa, sends out daily emails of comprehensive chazara questions for the advanced Daf Yomi learner who really wants to retain his learning, and weekly emails of words of inspiration based on the Parsha. For more information on Reflections, to subscribe to receive these emails, or request a speaking engagement, Rabbi Berman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.