Why? Because!

Friday, 29 March, 2019 - 2:04 am

Today I am going to annoy some people – not intentionally, and not because I enjoy doing so, but because sometimes the simplest truth can be most annoying to hear.

I’ll begin with a story from my childhood. Yitzchak Shamir, who was then the prime Minister of the State of Israel, was known for his stubborn stance when it came to any suggestion that parts of the Land of Israel should be given over to our enemies. Once, when he was on a state visit to the U.S., he was invited to speak to a group of several hundred Jewish youths. When the question-and-answer period arrived at the end of his speech, one young man got up and asked: “Mr. Prime Minister, why do you absolutely refuse to give up East Jerusalem, and are not even willing to discuss the issue?” The audience was expecting a reasoned, learned answer, but was surprised to hear the prime minister give a two-word response: “Why? Because!”

When the press attacked him later, asking, “What kind of answer was that?” He answered: “A Jewish child has to know that there are questions that the answer to them is, ‘because!’.”

Annoying, isn’t it?

Well, Parashat Para that we will read tomorrow brings with it exactly this message of Shamir. A person (such as a Chevra Kadisha worker) who comes into contact with a dead person, becomes Tameh – ritually impure – and is not allowed to enter the Beit Hamikdash, the holy Temple. He cannot take part in bringing offerings such as Korban Pesach (the Passover sacrifice) etc. How will he become pure? The Torah says: “And they will take to you a red, unblemished cow.”

Here are some more details regarding this cow: It has to be at least three years old, it is slaughtered on the Mount of Olives and burned together with a piece of cedar wood, hyssop and crimson thread. The ashes are mixed with spring water, and it is this water that is sprinkled on the person who is Tameh (The Chevra Kadisha guy, poor thing…) on two separate occasions. And then, the person becomes pure and can once again enter the Beit Hamikdash.

You may ask, Why? Why a cow? Why a red cow? Why burn it? And the answer is: Because! Just like that. Hashem did not provide us with any explanation for this mitzvah, because there are some things, for which the answer to any questions regarding them is, “Because!”

It is true that on one hand we have been spending the last 3,300 years learning the Torah, understanding what it says and explaining it. The Mishnah and the Talmud, from the sages to the young boys who are sitting in yeshivahs and learning Torah – they’re all busy with trying to understand the Torah, and they actually do ask a lot of “why’s.” They also receive answers, usually several answers to every question. But at the base of this nation’s existence is a deep knowledge and strong faith that there are questions that the answer for which is “because!” And let us not forget that when we were offered the Torah we didn’t exactly ask why and how, but merely said, “We shall do and we shall hear.”


I don’t want to touch on politics, but in the case of Jerusalem, I agree with Mr. Shamir z”l. Why? Because!


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Zalmen Wishedski

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