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    Why should I understand?

    Parah AdumahThere is an eternal mystery about the parah adumah, the red heifer.

    The paradox is that the mixture involving the ashes of the heifer purifies the impure but renders impure the pure. It is called a statute – chukkah – a category of law which is not susceptible to human analysis but is obeyed as a text of obedience to God.

    It sounds a bit like blind faith: I do it because God commanded me, regardless of whether I find meaning in its observance.

    Generations of Jews have sought a rationale but with little record of success. The only possible way of handling the problem seems to be to have faith that God knows what He is doing even if we don’t. Where this leads us is either to reject the statutes or to embrace them.

    Being prepared to do the latter, what do I say to myself?

    “I would like to know what is going on, but I am prepared to concede that some things are too big for me. If I understood every smallest thing that God does I would end up being greater than God, because it would mean that everything God says and commands had to be submitted for my approval.

    “Since I’m not greater than God I must by definition be smaller. And being smaller than God means that I am bound to be mystified at some things. Why should I understand everything?”

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