In the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, we break from the historical narrative of the Jewish people wandering in the desert. The Torah pauses to tell us a new set of laws regarding the laws of purification should a person come in contact with something that is deemed impure. Shortly thereafter, the Torah portion continues with its historical narrative by relaying the events surrounding the passing of Miriam, the sister of Moshe.
It seems noteworthy that the laws of purification are juxtaposed to the narrative of Miriam’s passing. There are other seemingly more appropriate places the Torah could have placed these laws.
Indeed, the foremost commentary on the Chumash, Rashi, points this out and says that the Torah is teaching us a valuable message here. The death of the righteous purify the world as the laws of the purification and its sacrifice purify a person.
The Alter Rebbe, the author of the Tanya, penned a letter to Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berditchov, in consolation of the tragic death of his son in the year 1806.
In it, he quoted this commentary and explained that upon the passing of an individual, all of his deeds done here in this physical world are highlighted. The illuminations caused by his deeds are drawn down from the spiritual to the physical thus manifesting in a revealed way.
It follows that on the day of the passing of a Tzadik, a righteous individual, the effects of all of his good deeds are felt here in this world, causing a spiritual arousal just as if we had given a sacrifice to Hashem and purified ourselves.
This explains why Miriam’s passing was juxtaposed to the laws of purification. For the effects of a Tzadik’s passing in this world are similar to the effects of a purification sacrifice.
This week, we commemorate the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in the year 1994. The Rebbe’s mission in this world was to elevate every individual to his maximum potential. The Rebbe started a movement of world purification. Through his emissaries in virtually every country in the world, he set out to touch every Jew and help him bring his sacrifice of purification to Hashem.
On the day of his passing, the illumination accomplished through him and his emissaries is felt in this world.
The Rebbe empowered his army of emissaries to search out every Jew and infuse within them a love for Hashem. Let us use this day as a day of inspiration to commit ourselves to emulate the Rebbe’s unconditional love shown toward all Jews alike, no matter the label, affiliation or beliefs. For only then will Hashem feel comfortable dwelling among us, when we live in peace, harmony and acceptance of each other.
Rabbi Yisroel Rosenfeld is executive director of Yeshiva Schools and Chabad of Western Pennsylvania. This column is a service of Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.