Parshat Chukas 5774: The Parah Adumah, Chukim and Jewish History

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Chukas is being sponsored by Jonathan & Debbie Sassen and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in dedication for a refuah shlaima for Moshe ben Devah. To the Sassen family, many thanks for your sponsorhip and continued kindnesses.

You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua. Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Chukas 5774: The Parah Adumah, Chukim and Jewish History

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Moshe Weissman, in his sefer, “The Midrash Says,” writes regarding Parsha Chukas (Sefer Bamidbar, pages 245-247):

There are numerous examples of chukim…. Since they contain apparently contradictory elements, they are liable to be ridiculed by a rational thinker. The Torah advises the Jew to tell himself, It’s a chok; I have no right to question it.”

Nevertheless, chukim are not “laws without reasons”; rather their logic is Divine. The greatest among our people were able to understand some of them.

Thus the rationale behind the laws of the parah adumah were Divinely revealed to Moshe.

On the other hand, King Shlomo, who researched the reasons behind the mitzvot and found explanations for all of the others, professed that this mitzvah was incomprehensible.

Shlomo…. confessed, “I thought I would get wisdom, but it (the mitzvah of parah adumah) is far from me. (Koheles 7:23)

To appreciate his words fully…:

“And Hashem gave Shlomo very much wisdom and understanding and breadth of knowledge like the sand that is on the sea shore.” (1 Melachim 5:9)

Rabbanim and commentators, throughout the generations, have indicated that at their deepest levels, all of Halacha could be viewed as Chukim which we humans don’t fully understand at their most Divine levels. Halachot regarding the Parah Adumah (the Red Heffer) and it’s purification qualities, Bassar V’Chalav (separation between meat and milk), tumah and taharah (impure or contaminated and pure), and Shatnes (not to wear fabrics with a mix of wool and linen) are a few of the Halachot for which we don’t possess a deeper understanding and rationale. We are told that at a human level of understanding, the Chukim represent a distinction between spiritual and the mundane, Holiness vs profane. We learn that Chukim are to be accepted as expressions of faith, even though we may not understand, or possess a full understanding of them.

The Artscroll, “Stone Chumash”, in its commentary at the beginning of our Parsha (Perek 19, page 838) explains:

It is axiomatic… that since all of the laws of Torah are the products of Hashem’s intelligence, any human inability to comprehend them indicates the limitation of the student, not the Teacher. As the Sages expressed it, there is nothing meaningless or purposeless in the Torah, and if it seems so, it is only a product of our own deficiency. (Rambam)

The placement in Torah of the Parah Adumah, and its qualities of purification from tumah, in our Parsha Chukas raises questions as to why it and it’s Halachot are mentioned here in our Parsha; only after the Affair of the Spies, Korach’s rebellion and after the continued murmuring of the Am against Moshe Rabbeinu, after the plague which killed thousands only ending with Aaron’s carrying an incense pan amongst the people (upon Moshe’s instruction), and after the story of the rods.

“Rabbi Artscroll” presents one answer to the “why” of Torah’s placement of the Parah Adumah with a brief commentary in The Stone Chumash ( Artscroll, “Stone Chumash”, Parsha Chukat, Perek 19, posuk 1, page 839) on the words at the beginning of our Parsha:

“…el Moshe, v’el Aaron…” “Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aaron saying: ‘This is a decree of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded, saying:speak to the B’nai Yisrael, and they shall take to you a completely red cow, which is without blemish, and upon which a yoke has not come.'”

The answer speaks of the symbolism of the Parah Adumah (the Red Heiffer) coming to atone for the sin of the Eigel Zahav (the Golden Calf) “… as if to say let the Mother come and clean up the mess left by her child…”

The Artscroll, “Stone Chumash”, in its commentary at the beginning of our Parsha (Perek 19, page 838) notes:

.The Torah states that it [the Parah Adumah] is a decree of the One Who gave the Torah, and it is not for anyone to question it. (Rashi)

Back in Philadelphia, in the “Old Country”, Rav Moshe Ungar would render a similar explanation to the Stone Chumash: that the phenomenon of the Parah Adumah as a Tikkun given B’nai Yisrael after the Eigel Zahav was to be an eternal rectification of the tumah, the defilement of the Eigel Zahav. In other words, the Tikkun only later revealed in Parsha Chukat, tells us that, like a doctor treating an ill patient, that the remedy for illness generally precedes the illness itself; that the means of rectification of a Chet precedes the Chet itself.

We have seen the adage play out throughout our history of the remedy for illness preceding the illness itself; that the means, or potential, for rectification or salvation of B’nai Yisrael precedes the Chet or danger itself, as with Esther HaMalka in place, and Mordechai’s foiling of the poison plot against the king written in the annals prior to Haman’s evil plot against the Jews. The existant remedies brought about Haman’s downfall and hanging and the salvation of B’nai Yisrael.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.