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The Music of Halacha: Kashering

Dear Rabbi Weinberg; I have heard you say on numerous occasions that the laws of Kashering are a guide to repairing spiritual damage. Since the laws of Kashering are in this week’s Parsha, Matos, “Everything that comes into fire, you shall pass through fire and it will be purified (Numbers 31:23),” I was wondering where you got such an idea that I never heard in Yeshiva or from my rabbeim. How can you teach an idea which has no Mesorah/Tradition? YG


Dear YG;

I do have a Mesorah as do you:

“It is a matter that is clear and revealed that the laws of impurities and purity are biblical decrees. They are not among the ideas that a person’s logic will derive. and they are included in the category of, “Chukim,” statutes, as are the laws of immersion to be purified; for impurity is not mud or waste that are removed by water, but a biblical decree, and the matter depends on one’s intention. Therefore our Sages taught that one who immerses in a Mikvah that lacks an established status as a Kosher mikvah, is considered to not have immersed.

Even so, there is a lesson hinted in these laws that one who has intention to purify himself is purified once he has immersed even though he did not affect any physical changes. So too, one who intends to purify his soul from spiritual impurities, such as wicked thoughts and destructive ideas; once he has committed himself to separate from such ideas and immerses himself in the purifying waters of pure knowledge, of him the verse says, ‘Then I will sprinkle pure water upon you, that you may become cleansed; I will cleanse you from all your contamination and from all your idols (Ezekiel 36:25)’ [Rambam: Conclusion of Hilchot Mikva’ot].”

Many commentators wonder why the Rambam only mentions Teshuvah from destructive thoughts and not the purification of Teshuvah from all sins, and why the Rambam does not address the idea of immersion in the pure waters of Torah as part of every Teshuva.

The Beit HaLevi (Lecture 15) teaches that beyond the punishment that results from the sin of violating the Divine Will, the sinner has damaged more than one level of his higher soul, and has dulled his heart as is taught in the Talmud (Yomah 39a).

He continues, “We find that the impurity of the sin follows him around as a dog follows his master (Avodah Zarah 5b), and, our Sages have taught that the sin clasps onto him and precedes him into the Heavenly Tribunal on the day of his final judgment, as Ezekiel says, ‘For their iniquities remain upon them (32:27).

“When the person comes to do Teshuvah, besides that he needs atonement to negate the punishment, he must purify himself and repair the spiritual damage he caused his soul. and remove the blocks he has placed over his heart, as the verse teaches, ‘You shall cut away the barrier of your heart (Devarim 10:16).’

“When he has gone through the tree steps of Teshuva, which are total regret over the past, resolving to not again sin in the future, and the Vidui, immediately the impurity of the sin is removed from the surface of his soul, and he remains as a vessel without anything non-kosher on the surface, but still has impurity absorbed into the inside of the vessel.

“This is true on two levels: One, the habit of sinning has changed the essence of his soul and makes it easier to again sin, and two, the impurity of the sin as like something non-kosher that has been absorbed into a pot and must be kashered as the same heat at which it absorbed the non-kosher. The pot must first be rinsed of any surface non-kosher before it is kashered at the appropriate temperature.

“This is the idea taught by the Talmud, ‘When the serpent came upon Eve he injected a lust into her (Shabbat 146a),’ the same lust for sin that is injected deep into our souls each time we sin; a lust that corrupts our soul and empowers our physical side to overcome our spiritual nature, without any negative external influence to sin. The next sin will come from within. This is what needs to be Kashered, as the verse says, ‘Everything that comes into fire, you shall pass through fire and it will be purified.’

Nothing Kashers as does Torah study, as the Mishna teaches, “Whoever engages in Torah study for its own sake…‘machsharto, it makes him fit to be righteous (Avot 6:1),’ ‘machsharto’ as in Kashers him, after Teshuvah to remove the impurities absorbed in his soul and the barriers to his heart (Beit HaLevi; Derush #15).”

This is why the Rambam focuses on ‘one who intends to purify his soul from spiritual impurities, such as wicked thoughts and destructive ideas,’ for it is such sins that are the most difficult to Kasher.

My father zt”l taught me that the heat/passion/intensity at which the negative influence was absorbed determines the necessary heat /passion/intensity to burn out the evil.

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