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    Parashat Hukat
    introduces us to
    the mitzvah of parah
    adumah – the special red
    cow that was used for
    purifying. The cow was
    slaughtered and burned, and the ashes
    were then mixed with water. That water
    would be used to make somebody or
    something tahor after it had
    become tameh by coming in contact
    with a dead body.
    The Midrash draws a connection
    between the parah adumah and the sin
    of the golden calf. A calf is a young
    cow. And so the parah
    adumah represents the “mother” of the
    golden calf.
    In the words of the Midrash: “Let the
    mother come and clean up her child’s
    When a young child makes a mess, the
    parent has the responsibility to clean up
    the mess.
    Thus, the parah adumah serves to atone

    for the sin of golden calf – like a mother
    cleaning up the mess made by her child.
    The Midrash implicitly conveys what
    might seem like an obvious message,
    but which is, unfortunately, not always
    as obvious as it should be:
    When there is a mess to clean up, we
    need to clean it up.
    I cannot tell you how many times I
    have heard parents of married children
    complain, “CAN’T THEY AT LEAST
    Especially in the summertime, it is
    common for young couples to spend a
    lot of time in their parents’ houses, or
    even move in for a few weeks. They
    need to be responsible, and, quite
    literally, clean up the mess. It is not
    considerate to their parents to leave it to
    them to clean up the kids’ mess. They
    need to take responsibility.
    But there’s a more general lesson here,
    People are sometimes oblivious to

    their surroundings, to the “messes” that
    they make without taking care of or
    taking responsibility for. They go about
    their business doing what they want to
    do without showing any regard for
    what’s going on around them, for the
    “mess” that needs to be cleaned up.
    This happens because of selfishness –
    something that all of us have. We are all
    selfish in some way. And to an extent,
    this makes sense. We all have personal
    needs that we need to care for. The
    problem is that these needs create
    “blind spots” that shield our vision, that
    don’t allow us to see other people and
    their needs. These “blind spots” prevent
    us sometimes from seeing the “mess”
    that we are making and that we are
    supposed to be “cleaning up.”
    The solution to this problem is to make
    a special effort to keep our eyes open
    and look around us. We don’t need to
    live with blind spots. If we turn our
    heads far enough, we’ll see more. If we
    pay closer attention to the people

    around us, we won’t be blind to their
    So let’s try to always stay attuned to
    what’s going around us. Let’s “clean
    the highchair.” Let’s clean up the
    messes that we are responsible to clean
    up, and show greater concern and
    consideration for all the people in our
    lives – who will then, undoubtedly, do
    the same for us.
    This will make our homes, our families
    and our community so much happier.