middot humility torah off with the dross

off with the dross

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-drossThe third haftarah of admonition comes from Isaiah 1:1─27. In this portion Isaiah brings charges against the people from God, calling them to remove the stains of bloodshed and oppression.

    And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you, even when you pray at length, I do not hear; your hands are full of blood.

    Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease to do evil.

    Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the robbed, perform justice for the orphan, plead the case of the widow.

    Come now, let us debate, says the Lord. If your sins prove to be like crimson, they will become white as snow; if they prove to be as red as crimson dye, they shall become as wool.

    Isaiah 1:15─18

Cleanliness is one of those middot that seem to have an exceptionally vast number of applications: making sure our bodies our clean, making sure our clothes and homes are clean, making sure our thoughts are pure of malice and sexual immorality, making sure our speech is clean, etc. In the case of our haftarah, and this particular season in the cycle of the Jewish year, we focus on cleansing ourselves from aggression toward our fellow people and God. Baseless hatred within Israel is cited as one of the reasons the Second Temple was destroyed. This season of nine days of mourning is an opportunity to face the brokenness in our history as well as in the lives we live now. We may have been freed from sin and death but we need to choose to live as if that is true. More often than not, if we are honest, we have not always made that decision.

This season of cleanliness is an opportunity to hear God’s admonition to wash ourselves of the dross that sin brings. Whether it be in the realm of thought, speech, or deed we can see cleanliness as a removal of the barriers that keep us from lives of purity. May we all grow to the purity in which we have been empowered to live.

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