This week we read Parshat Ki Tissa and next week we read the portion known as Parah.
This week marks the yahrtzeit for my mother, Hadassah Leah Z”L bat Shimon HaCohen v’Miriam Goldah, and Monday would be her 54th birthday. A little known fact about my mom was her obsession with cows. Whenever I would go away, if I saw a cow I would buy it for her; my favourite, was Hugh Heifer from Build-a-Bear, or in this case, Cow. What better tribute can I do for her memory is to find a d’var torah that incorporates the cow’s prominent place in these weeks’ Parshiyot.
By reading about the golden calf, followed so closely with the Parah Adumah, we glimpse at the maturation of the priesthood.
After the tablets are broken, Moshe comes down and asks Aharon, “what happened?”
Aharon answers with “I don’t know, I threw the gold in the fire and it became the calf” (32:24 with artistic liberty).
This indicates a certain passivity and immaturity of Aharon, not taking ownership at this time.
This is in contrast to the Parah Adumah, the red heifer, who paradoxically turns both the impure pure and makes all the pure helpers impure in the process. This time, the priests actively help the impure person, by sacrificing themselves in the process, albeit temporarily.
My mom was a Bas Cohen which means that her dad is a Cohen. My mom had a roller coaster life with a lot of ‘setbacks’. It was so easy to be passive and give up, like Aharon and the egel. Instead, she rose above and many times she made a person feel special by sacrificing her wants and focusing in on the other person.
I am reminded of a time when once someone brought my mom a banana cake. Now my mom hated bananas to the degree that she would tell people she was allergic. Yet, she had a piece because it meant enough to the other person to bring it to her, and that the other person would not feel embarrassed.
If we all follow my mom’s example of putting another’s wants before our own; risking a day of impurity of uncomfortableness for another person. If we all do a little bit we will make the world a better place.