Pirkei Avos tells us in the name of Rabbi Yehuda ben Tayma, “To be strong like a leopard…to do will of G-d.” Our rabbis tell us that this leopard-like strength is not physical strength, but the strength to be able to stand up to those who ridicule us for living a life of Torah and Mitzvot. And this week’s Parsha opens with the exact same message!
The portion begins by discussing the laws of the “Red Heifer” or Parah Adumah, the special offering who’s ashes would purify those people who touch a corpse. There is no possible logical reason why cow ashes should make one pure! Rashi in his commentary tells us that this is why this strange law ia called a “chok”, a law that defies human comprehension. To paraphrase Rashi, “When the nations of the world come to the Jewish people and make fun of them for following their illogical laws, we can point to the Torah and tell them this law is a“chok”. It may not make sense to us, but we have a strong faith in G-d and in His Torah, and we follow his laws even when we might not understand the reason behind them.”
As Jews, we are directed to love all of G-d’s creations. As the Talmud says, “Torah was given only to bring peace to the world.” Our job is not to protest or judge the personal choices of others, neither to be hurtful or intolerant. We can NEVER use the Torah as an excuse to mistreat others. We are meant to be a positive example to the world.
But when, as often happens, others come to us and attack us for our beliefs, to ridicule our faith in the Torah, we must not be embarrassed to stand strong. We never need to apologize for what our Torah tells us, and the kind of lifestyle our Torah wants us to live. True, at times the secular world around us might disagree with what the Torah tells us. Sometimes even those amongst our own people may disagree. But we need to never be ashamed of who we are, and what we believe in, even if it happens to be unpopular. Even as adults, we cannot give in to peer pressure.
Wishing you and your families a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Akiva Hall