Parsha Chukas – Deliberate Mystery

This weeks Parsha, Chukat contains some very interesting wisdom. The very concept of wisdom in hebrew is contained in the word “Chochma”. There are mitzvot in the Torah which are called “Chok” which means a mitzvah who’s logic is beyond human comprehension.

This weeks parsha contains the mitzvah of the Red Heifer. This mitzvah has been studied by the sages and the commentators through the centuries. There is a paradox in this mitzvah which has puzzled some of the greatest Torah giants. According to the midrash only Moshe Rebbeinu was privy to the inner workings of this mitzvah.

The basic working of the mitzvah of the Para Adumah is that there is this concept of purity. Things are either pure or contaminated. People become contaminated through contact with dead.

“This is the Torah [the law]: when a person dies in a tent, all who come into the tent, and anything in the tent, shall be impure for seven days.” [19:14]

The Torah tells us that a person who is contaminated must go through this process whereby ashes of a Red Heifer are sprinkled on him. The paradox is that the Kohen who purifies this person takes on the impurity.

Do we really understand how this happens, and why the Kohen must take on the impurity from the person? It is hard to comprehend the meaning of this. In order to accept it one must realize that there are things that humans will just never know until the end of days. Those who think they know it all often are proven wrong.

The Torah continues with the story of Miriams death. The Children of Israel had witnessed a miracle on Miriams behalf, that of the miraculous well which followed the people. Now they started to complain to Moshe. Of course this caused Moshe much consternation and he asked the L-rd for the peoples welfare. Then the unfortunate happened. Moshe was commanded to speak to the rock and it would give forth water. But Moshes emotions got the better of him and his anger towards the unfaithful people reared up and he struck the rock instead of speaking to it. Because Hashem wanted to demonstrate to the people his mercy instead of appearing that Moshe just struck it and it produced water, he told Moshe he would not enter the land of Israel.

The people of the land begin to act beligerently toward the Children of Israel in their travels. First Edom {a descendent of Essau} would not allow passage of the people through their land, the most direct route to Eretz Yisroel. Then Ahron dies and the protective cloud which covered the people disappeared. Elazar, his son, takes the Kehuna. Because Ahron was a man of peace the entire people loved him and mourned him for 30 days.

But the stiff necked people once again complain against Moshe and ask “Why have you brought us from Egypt to this desert to die?”. This upsets Hashem so he unleashed fiery serpents on the people. The people realize this is the punishment for their unfaithfulness and come to Moshe asking him to pray to the L-rd. As it is written:

4 And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom; and the soul of the people became impatient because of the way. 5 And the people spoke against God, and against Moses: ‘Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, and there is no water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.’ 6 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses, and said: ‘We have sinned, because we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that He take away the serpents from us.’ And Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole; and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he seeth it, shall live.’ 9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and set it upon the pole; and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he looked unto the serpent of brass, he lived.

After they realized their mistake and repented before Hashem and Moshe, Hashem tells Moshe to make the brass snake which allowed the people to be cured of the snake bite. This was another miracle of the desert.

Then the Children of Israel mount a battle against Sichon, king of the Emorites, and Og the king of Bashan and they are victorious.

Check out some more insights into the Parsha.

Some interesting links:

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