Monday, June 18, 2007

Chukas: relaxed perfection

Parshat Chukas

In the beginning of the parsha, the Torah teaches us the concept of Para Aduma (red heiffer) and its details. In 19:2 the passuk tells us to take a "complete (faultless) red heifer" (פרה אדומה תמימה).

Rashi defines "temima" - faultless, or complete, as meaning it must be complete in its redness, being that if it would be found to have two black hairs, it would invalidate it from service as a red heifer.

One could extrapolate from that that one black hair would be acceptable. Only a minimum of two black hairs is a problem.

What's the difference one hair or two hairs? They are both so insignificant relative to the rest of the animal. If the minimum is going to be so small, why not make it even one hair, and if one hair is not a problem, why is two hairs a problem - maybe we should say only ten hairs?

There is no such thing as "perfect" in this world. The most perfect item will always have some sort of minor blemish. If you look hard enough you will find it. There is nothing perfect.

The Torah allows for a slight blemish in the red heifer, because if it did not, it would be impossible to ever have a red heifer. With one black hair we still call it "complete" and "perfect". That is the physical reality.

But once that blemish repeats itself, it can no longer be called "complete" or "perfect" even by our relaxed standards. One non-red hair will be ok, but more than that, means it is not just a slight aberration of perfection, but it is not perfect.

The same is true in our lives. Nobody is perfect. Do something once, and it can be overlooked as a slight aberration. Do it twice and it is indicative of a problem and can no longer be ignored.


Neil Harris said...

What a beautiful thought!

avakesh said...

Thank you. Once is an aberration, twice is a pattern.