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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Chukas 5767

This week' s sedra begins with the laws of the Red Heifer. The ceremony, which is used for spiritual purification. Also includes the sin of Moses and Aaron at M'riva; the death of Aaron; and the successful battles with Emorie and Bashan.

The first verse teaches us the laws of the Red Heifer.

Numbers 19:2

This is the decree of the Torah which Hashem has commanded, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel and have them take to you a red heifer which has no blemish, and upon it no yoke has come.


This is the decree of the Torah: Because the Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel saying: What is the meaning and purpose of this mitzvah? Therefore it says 'chukah' ( 'decree') it is a decree from Me and you have no right to question it.

The Mitzvah of the Red Heifer has certain aspects, which defy reason. The people who prepare the Red Heifer who are themselves pure become impure in the process, while impure people who use the ashes of the Red Heifer become pure. The ceremony of preparing the ashes of the Heifer contain elements which are also "beyond reason." This is what Rashi is referring to. This is what the nations of the world are mocking us about.

But on this we can ask a question.

Hint: See Deuter. 4:6.


A Question: When we read some verses in Deuteronomy, Chapter 4, a question stares us in the face.

See I have taught you today decrees and laws as I was commanded by Hashem my God, to do in the midst of the land to which you come to possess it.

You shall safeguard and perform them, for it is your wisdom and your understanding in the eyes of the peoples, who shall hear all these decrees and who shall say: "Surely a wise and understanding people is this great nation. For which is a great nation that has a G-d Who is close to him as is Hashem our G-d in all our calling to Him. And who is a great nation which has righteous decrees and laws such as the entire Torah that I place before you this day."

What can we ask here?

Your Question:


A Question: These verse tell us the nations of the world think we are smart and understanding after they heard "all these decrees." So how can Rashi say they would mock us for our decrees?

Can you think of an answer:

Your Answer:


An Answer: The verses in Deuteronomy stress "all these decrees"

And "righteous decrees and laws such as the entire Torah..." So it would seem that the decrees make sense when seen in their total context (the entire Torah and all the decrees) but not when seen alone. One must see the whole picture, as they say, to appreciate every part of it. When we - or the nations - see only one small part of the Torah they will be mislead and miss its overall wisdom.

The implication is that when the nations see how well and peacefully Israel lives as a total community they will appreciate the Torah which is the peoples' guide to living.


A lesson here is that as the Jews live in this world so do they give honor to the Torah and G-d, it's Maker.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

"What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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