How many can look in the mirror and smile at themselves? Babies have no problem doing this. Is this what maturity brings?
Rashi in his Torah commentary compares the process of the Red Heifer, used to cleanse one of the spiritual impurity of contact with a corpse, to a maidservant summoned to the king’s palace to clean up the mess left by her child. The female cow represents the maidservant, and the child’s mess refers to the tragic sin of the Golden Calf. What does the king’s palace represent? That would seem to be our bodies, the palace for the Neshama, our souls.
In the wake of the greatest revelation of G-d in world history, the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the sin of the Golden Calf was one of the most tragic events in world history. Our tradition says the Jewish people, even today, continue to be Divinely judged at some level for this national mishap. Yet, a stain on the soul, a mess left on the floor of the palace does not condemn the palace! It should be cleaned, but G-d shows us the stain caused by sin, even the sin of the Golden Calf, does not define us. Our bodies always remain a palace for the royal Neshama.
Sometimes it’s difficult to look in the mirror, let alone to smile. Maybe we’ve made some mistakes, some of them big, and when we look in the mirror all that negativity stares us back in the face; it’s hard to make eye contact. There’s no need to hesitate. An ugly mistake is not staring back at us. We can always have the confidence to smile at the king’s palace in the reflection and live with the dignity and strength of true royalty.
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis – Torah.org