Parshat Chukas 5773: The Parah Adumah and Rachel Imeinu’s Prayers for Divine Compassion

by Moshe Burt

The Midrash Says, by Rabbi Moshe Weissman 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)

The placement in Torah of the Parah Adumah 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 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…”

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…”

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.

As this author understands, the tikkun for the Chet HaEigel was to serve as tikkun for B’nai Yisrael’s subsequent tumah.

Could it be that the Chet HaEigel marked the beginning of a demarcation point?

This author has heard it said, after the chet of the Miraglim and then Korach’s rebellion (with it’s subsequent rebellions after the events of the firepans and the earth’s swallowing up of the rebels), that the communications channels between Hashem and Moshe Rabbeinu were severed until the final year before the B’nai Yisrael entered Eretz Yisrael when these channels were re-established. Or, if the connection was not severed, there is little known about the intervening 38 years; little known regarding the process of the previous generation’s dying off and little known as to whether anything new occurred worthy of noting, of teaching to B’nai Yisrael for posterity.

For why else do we learn, immediately after the laws of the Parah Adumah are given, that the “’entire community’ came to the wilderness of Tzin…”, that the people set up camp in Kodeish and that “Miriam died and was buried there?” (BaMidbar, Perek 20, posuk 1)

Rashi renders the “entire community” as;

The entire, perfect community. Those who were to die in the desert had already perished, and these were set apart to live. (Rashi, BaMidbar, Perek 20, posuk 1)

Then Rashi asks concerning Miriam’s death, which is mentioned in connection with camping in Kodeish, why it is placed immediately after the Parah Adumah, and he answers;

To teach you that, just as the sacrifices bring atonement, so do the deaths of the righteous bring atonement. (ibid)

Rashi’s reckoning seems to state the obvious; that during the 38 years of wandering, the older generation between 20 and 60 had all died except for Yehoshua and Caleiv (the 2 Spies who were strong for entering Eretz Yisrael), Aaron’s sons Elazar and Ithamar, as well as Elazar’s son Pinchas. And, as we learned in Parshat Bamidbar, the Levi’im also lived to enter Eretz Yisrael.

And here is where Rachel Imeinu comes in. Nearly 8 years after the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the Shomron, we still suffer trauma today in Eretz Yisrael regarding the Boosha of our times, the eviction of our fellow Jews, by other Jews, and the outright legalized theft of their property and posssessions.

We, as part of Am Yehudi, suffer the utter failure of Israeli governance over that span to provide just and complete restitution to them or to provide sufficient economic or logistical support to enable all of the former Gush Katif residents to pick up and continue their lives anew.

This is the reality despite the enactment of the so-called “compensation law” and several other subsequent laws meant to benefit the former Gush Katif residents. The expulsionist residue has stone-walled the application and inforcement of these laws such that our fellow Jews continue to endure great pain, hardship, emotional upheaval and financial loss and disruption resulting from the expulsion abomination.

As if that were not enough, we view the evolution of the regime’s future plans, which we’ve gotten a taste of under the guise of “two states(sic)”: i.e., the Amona evictions, “construction freeze,” expulsions from places such as Ulpana, attempts to impose further “construction freezes” — defacto or official, the ban against Jews ascendng Har HaBayit and more. We will need to stand up strong and solid, like men, NOT like the spies analogy of “grasshoppers”, in confronting, combatting and prevailing over the elitists, the intelligencia, the institutions, the media, the bureacracy AND, the politicians — those who exhibit an abject lack of Torah-grounding and hate and disdain for anything Jewish.

And while we are not now in the times of the Geula Shlaima and thus, do not have the Beit Hamikdash and the Parah Adumah — that perfect Red Heiffer whose blood removes tumah, we do have our tefillot, and the merit of the Avot and Emot to beseech Hashem on our behalf.

Yaakov Aveinu says, in explaining to Yosef why his Imma is buried b’derech;

“…I buried her [on the road] by Divine command. In the future my children will go into exile. When they pass Kever Rachel, they will embrace it. She will stand and pray for mercy on their behalf, and the Holy One, Blessed is He, will accept her prayer.” (Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities, Yishai Chassida, page 485 quoting Pesikta Rabbasi 3:69)

And Eichah tells;

How Rachel Imeinu recounted to Hashem the circumstances of her Marriage to Yaakov and how she acceded to Yaakov’s prior Marraige to Leah due to Lavan’s trickery and how she spoke to Yaakov on the wedding night so that Yaakov would not hear her sister’s voice and so that her sister Leah would not be shamed. And in this merit, she pleaded with Hashem, “‘You exile my children and [let] their enemies slaughter them and do with them as they pleased?’ At once, the compassion [rachamim] of HaKodosh Borchu was aroused and he said, ‘For Rachel I will return the people of Israel to their place.’” (Encyclopedia of Biblical Personalities, Yishai Chassida, page 485 quoting Pesikta Eichah Rabbasi 24)

Today, we remain without our Beit HaMikdash, without our daily Kohanic service and korbonot and thus without the Parah Adumah which would atone for aveirot. Thus, we beseech Rachel Imeinu from her prominent station in Shemayim, during Chodesh Tammuz, to plead for mercy on our behalf as our times become increasingly perilous; to pray for the speedy liberation, a liberation worthy of HaKadosh Borchu— from incarceration for our dear brother Jonathan Pollard who literally risked life and limb al Kiddush Hashem for his Jewish brethren. And we beseech Rachel Imeinu to pray for an end to the series of despicable, abjectly corrupt regimes of Israeli governance with all of their corruptions, brown-bag cash, self-affectionation and self-aggrandisement — and of at least 117 knivving Knesset members. We yearn, pray that our actions, that our hishtadlut. will bring success; that faith-based, Yeirat Shemayim governance will prevail and win out, and for the time when all Jews will have free and total access to the Jewish Har HaBayit and Beit HaMikdash and live in and possess all of Eretz Yisrael. We pray that we will again know mutual care and responsibility; each one of us for his brother.

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 other 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, bim hay v’yameinu — 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.