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Shabbat Parashat Tetzaveh 5780

Ein Ayah: Blood of Life and Destruction

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Shabbat 9:130-131)

Gemara: How do we know that we tie a crimson strip of wool to the head of the scapegoat? It is along the lines of the pasuk: “If your sins will be like crimson items (shanim), they will become white like snow” (Yeshayahu 1:18). It should have said like shani (the singular – a crimson object). What does shanim indicate? Hashem was saying to Israel: “[Even] if your sins will be like years (shanim), which are set out one after the other from the time of the six days of Genesis until now, they will still whiten like snow.”


Ein Ayah: Life and the strengthening of life forces that are revealed in one’s spirit, which is incorporated into the lifeblood – the red, warm, and bubbly blood – display beauty and glow. However, they are also the sources of destruction and desolation, with all the sinfulness and evil involved in them. 

At the end of the process, repentance needs to come and forgiveness to be found. And the excess of the turbulence of life needs to be sent away to a place of desolation, to the center of destruction, for it is this excess that is the foundation of destruction and desolation.

This knowledge and internal realization straightens the spirit and makes it seek a better, balanced life, so that a person can maintain a harmonious grandeur, which is in line with the paths of the Torah. The light that comes from the source of life provides the light of forgiveness for all of the moral distortions of life when they leave their area of restraint.

All of these ideas are represented by the crimson strip of wool that was tied to the head of the scapegoat. When the crimson turns to white, it represents the sturdy foundation of purity and sanctity that is attached to energetic life (represented by the male goat, whose name eiz, which shares a root with the word for brazenness).

It is not that repentance works only for “chance” sins, which share more characteristics with unintentional sin than with purposeful sin. The great power of the light of repentance is revealed especially in regard to sins that form a pattern of behavior, which follow a person through his organized daily life. In those cases, the commonness of his behavior in both physical and spiritual matters makes one give up hope for the possibility of repentance.

In such cases, the word of Hashem comes to say that the impression that made one give up hope is incorrect. It is only out of weakness of the heart that a person holds on to that which seems to be his natural order. Repentance stands as a counterbalance to the nature of the individual and the nature of human society. The power of repentance is immense, and it can switch rooted patterns. Even if something remains for many years and for generations, as if in order from the six days of creation, they can be “turned from red into white.”

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