This Shabbat, we read as our maftir reading the section dealing with the "parah adumah" (red heifer). Why? Because during the time of the Bet Hamikdash, everybody was required to travel to Yerushalayim and offer korbanot. Since sacrifices may not be offered when one is "tam'e," everybody would have to become "tahor" prior to the onset of Pesah. Therefore, the laws of tum'ah and taharah were reviewed each year before Pesah, in fulfillment of the dictum, "You shall keep Benei Yisrael away from their impurity." If the Mashiah arrives in the coming days and the Bet Hamikdash of fire would descend from the heavens, we would be obligated to become tahor in anticipation of the sacrificing of the korban Pesah. If Mashiah arrives too close to Pesah to allow for purification before Pesah, then we will employ the principle that sacrifices may be offered when the nation as a whole is tam'e, and the korban will be offered even though we are tam'e.
In any event, as long as we do not have the Bet Hamikdash, the laws of "tum'ah" and "taharah" affect us in only two areas. First is the outright prohibition to ascend the Temple Mount in Yerushalayim. So long as we are tam'e, we may not step foot upon the holy site. The second area involves the laws of family purity, about which the Zohar says there is no impurity like it, and the tum'ah leaves only through immersion in a halachically-acceptable mikvah. Neglect of these laws adds strength to the forces of impurity and fuels the prosecution against us in the Heavenly Court, G-d forbid. We can only imagine how many tragedies result from this prosecution, how it threatens the stability of the couple, and how success and happiness are withheld on its account. Therefore, on this Shabbat, which is designated as a time for increased awareness of issues of purity, let us reinforce our commitment to the observance of family purity in all its detail.
THE MISHKAN AS COLLATERAL
Generally, when we are asked, "How are you doing?" we respond, "Baruch Hashem." We live, put food on the table, purchase homes and clothing, and enjoy the love of our families. If we are asked if there is more that we want, we would answer, for sure there is more. Goodness has no limits, be it wealth, health, or general contentment. We can only pray that Hashem fulfills all our wishes. However, the main point is missed. In the work, "Sha'arei Armon," a parable is told of a wealthy, successful merchant who provided for his family an impressive, high standard of living until he came upon hard times. He lost a huge fortune in bad investments.
His wife suggested, "Look, you have come upon hard times and hit hard luck. Don't start another business - we can live off our savings." He listened to his wife and stayed at home. The family lived off the money they had saved until that, too, was gone. His wife asked, "How long will this continue? For how much longer will you just sit around with your arms folded?" "What can I do?" he asked. "I was ready to invest, to open a business, but you told me to stay home. I listened to you and I stayed here. If you want me to go, I will listen to you and go. However, if I would have gone earlier, I could have taken with me our savings to help start an enterprise.
Now, that everything is finished, how can I go make money with nothing?" His wife answered, "To the contrary! If you would have gone then, you would have lost it all since you had hit bad luck. Now your luck is back and will shine. I have some precious jewelry - an expensive ring, earrings, a necklace, and bracelets. They can be used as collateral and we can get money for you to begin your new business affairs." Being a good husband, the merchant agreed. She pawned her jewelry, gave him the money, and warned him a thousand times over, "Be careful! Do not lose this money! Do not be lured to invest in a risky business venture. If you lose this money, we have nothing left. This is our final hope."
Once again, the merchant listened to his wife and saw the fulfillment of Hazal's dictum, "Honor your wives and become rich." He purchased some merchandise and returned to his city. He sold his goods for a large profit and went back to the market. He bought even more commodities, returned to the city, and once again sold his merchandise for a profit. The smiles gradually settled once again into the household, and the family's standard of living was restored to what it had been. When the time came to calculate his assets, the merchant sat and went through his dealings. He returned home with his face beaming with joy. "Why are you so happy?" asked his wife. He answered, "Just a short while ago we had nothing - even our savings had been used. Now, Baruch Hashem, we have returned to our previous lifestyle, we are living comfortably and my stores are filled with more merchandise. And yet, the principal money is still intact, and I can open another store. I am therefore ever so grateful for my success!" Upon hearing her husband's words, the woman broke out in tears.
She moaned, "How can you rejoice? Did you forget that my jewelry is still pawned - the bracelets, the rings, the earrings and the necklace? I removed my jewelry and they are still gone, yet you rejoice. Have you forgotten about redeeming them?" The smile was torn off the man's face. How did he forget her sacrifice for the sake of his business, how did he forget about her jewelry? Similarly, we used to enjoy both material and spiritual success. We had prophets, the Sanhedrin, kohanim and levi'im serving in the Bet Hamikdash. All this has been lost on account of our misdeeds. When the Al-mighty saw our suffering, He removed, as it were, His jewelry, and pawned it for us: "These are the countings of the mishkan, the mishkan of testimony." Hazal understood the repetition of the word, "mishkan" as referring to the two Batei Mikdash which were offered as collateral (the word "mishkan" is related to the word, "mashkon," collateral) on account of our sins. Hashem vented His anger on the physical structure of the Bet Hamikdash in order to allow us to continue to exist as a nation. We have been through a long, difficult exile. Now, in our times, the light of success is shining. Blessed is Hashem Who has not withheld bread and clothing from us, nor will He. When we review our assets and put forth our requests to our Father in Heaven, we generally ask for just our basic necessities. We often do the same regarding our spiritual needs. As long as we prayed, we studied Torah, and we fulfilled the misvot - we are happy and content with our lot, and we offer our thanks. But we forget that we have yet to redeem the collateral. The Bet Hamikdash is still destroyed.
Therefore, on this Shabbat, on which we read Parashat Pekudei Hamishkan, the Shabbat on which we bless the month of Nissan, let us look towards the redemption - "In Nissan they were redeemed; in Nissan they will be redeemed!"
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