Spiritual Exercises for Shabbat Parah
“I will sanctify My great Name that is desecrated among the nations, that you have desecrated among them; then the nations will know that I am God, the Word of the Lord, God, the Lord, when I become sanctified through you before their eyes (Ezekiel 36:23).”
“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 (Verse 25).”
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh (Verse 26).”
“I will put My spirit within you, and I will make it so that you will follow My decrees and the guard My ordinances and fulfill them (Verse 28).”
From the text of this week’s Haftarah, we see that Parshat Parah discusses more than purity and impurity, it also discusses sanctification and desecration, a new heart and a new spirit, and, eventually the gift of God’s Spirit being placed within us.
From the midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:8), the Talmud (Moed Katan 28a), and the Rambam (Laws of the Red Heifer 1:9) we know that there is another element to the Parah Adumah; that of atonement.
It seems to me that we can use all these elements of the Parah Adumah as part of our Shabbat, Parshat Parah:
Friday Night: Sanctification
Ezekiel describes sanctification coming before cleansing and purification. Therefore, we must use the sanctity of Shabbat, specifically Kiddush, to access this area of Divine Influence on this Shabbat.
One: We should have special Kavanah for the Friday night kiddush that we merit this special gift of sanctification available on this Shabbat.
Two: we should make sure to expend every effort to sanctify this Shabbat in all of our actions and speech.
Three: Use the Friday night meal to discuss and describe your most powerful experiences of sanctity.
Four: Have extra Kavanah when reciting the blessing of Keddusha in the Friday night prayer.
Five: Focus on the special gift of Sanctity offered on this Shabbat when reciting the prayer, “Ata Kidashta,” “You sanctified.”
Shabbat Morning: Purification
Ezekiel describes cleansing and purification following sanctification. We should therefore, use the Shabbat morning prayers to focus on purification.
One: Have Kavanah, especially during Pesukei d’Zimrah and the Blessings of the Shema, to use the words of your prayers to purify each aspect of creation described in the prayers from any impurity caused by our actions, words, and thoughts.
Two: Have the following Kavanot in the Morning Amidah:
- “Moses rejoiced;” focus on the purity necessary for Moshe to stand before God on Mount Sinai, the extraordinary level of purity necessary for him to hold the Luchot in his hands, how a “faithful servant” must have a certain level of purity to serve the King, and, how only one with a very high level of purity can merit to where, “A crown of splendor.”
- “And the Children of Israel shall keep the Shabbat;” focus on the “guarding” of the the Purity of this specific Shabbat. Just as there were boundaries marking different levels of purity necessary to a approach the Mishkan, so too, we must have, especially on this Shabbat, very clear boundaries guarding its purity; determining before the Shabbat meal, which speech will be allowed at the table, and which will not.
- “You did not give it, God, our Lord;” to anyone other than those prepared to live a life of purity. “I will make an extra effort to maintain my internal purity so as to merit the gift of Shabbat.”
- “Our Lord and the Lord of our forefathers;” emphasize the phrase, “Purify our heart to serve You sincerely.”
Three: Wash your hands before the Ark is opened focusing on the purity necessary to stand in the Presence of God.
Four: Wash your hands before touching the Torah, focusing on the purity necessary to a approach Torah.
Five: Make a special effort to stand during the Torah reading in a state of Spiritual purity.
Mussaf: A New Heart and a New Spirit
The Mussaf, or Additional Service, is a time when things are added; things such as a New Heart and Spirit. Therefore, the prayers that allow us to segue from Shacharit and the Torah Reading to Mussaf must be used to prepare for the Additional Gifts we are about to receive, on this Shabbat specifically a New Heart and Spirit.
- “Yikum Purkan;” focus on the community as a whole receiving the New Heart and Spirit offered on this Shabbat.
- “Ashrei;” a good part of this prayer focuses on what will happen: “I will exalt You,” “I will bless Your Name for ever and ever.” “Every day I will bless You,” “Each generation will praise Your deeds to the next.” We are describing what can and will happen, especially when the we aspire to pray with the New Heart and Spirit that we will receive on this Shabbat.
- Psalm 29: The The Ari haKadosh rights of many Kabbalistic allusions found in this Psalm and teaches that when it is recited with intense devotion it causes profound spiritual benefit in the Heavenly realms. Recite this Psalm with intention that we should all merit, through our New Heart and Spirit, to seeing this Psalm with the power described by the Ari.
- “And when it rested,” the verses sung when the Ark was returned to its place; picture in your mind how we are different after learning Torah, having a New Heart and Spirit, then we were when we first took the Torah out.
- “Those who delight in it will inherit eternal honor, those who savor it will merit life and also those who love this speech that befits it have chosen greatness.” Focus on the New Heart and Spirit that is possible on this Shabbat.
- “They shall rejoice in Your kingship, those who observed the Shabbat and call it a delight. The people that sanctifies the Seventh, they will all be satisfied and delighted from Your goodness.” Concentrate on the “delight” of a new heart and spirit, and the higher level of satisfaction and delight only possible with the new heart and spirit.
Mincha: Receiving God’s Spirit
If we have properly used all the previous steps; Sanctification, Purification, the gift of a New Heart and Spirit, we will be properly prepared to receive the gift of God’s Spirit. Therefore, this prayer demands preparation, specifically that of reifying all that we have learned and experienced since the beginning of this Shabbat. We should review any new insights, and any powerful experiences of this Shabbat, and adding them to this prayer. The goal is to pray as if animated by God’s Spirit.
Seudah Shilishit: Yom Kippur
It is at this point of Shabbat that we access the special gift of Atonement, as if we had just experienced Yom Kippur, which is why the Parah Adumah shares so much in common with the Yom Kippur service. This meal should be eat-in just as we eat the meal immediately after Yom Kippur. We should have the same sense of joy of having achieved total Atonement.