by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS CHUKAS 5775 BS"D
Ch. 19, v. 1,2: "Va'y'da'beir Hashem el Moshe v'el Aharon leimore, Da'beir" - And Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon thus saying, Speak - Verse one tells us that Hashem spoke to both Moshe and Aharon. Nevertheless, verse two continues with "dabeir" in the singular, meaning only Moshe should relate the information to the bnei Yisroel. Why wasn't Aharon also commanded to tell the bnei Yisroel the parsha of "poroh adumoh?" This is because the "poroh adumoh" comes atonement for the sin of the golden calf besides being a component of the purification ritual. Hashem did not want the bnei Yisroel to hear this from Aharon as they might say that he got them into trouble in the first place by suggesting that they bring him gold, which turned into the golden calf. (Holy Alshich)
Ch. 19, v. 2: "Zose chukas haTorah" - This is the statute of the Torah - The word "chukas" can be sourced from "lechem chuki," bread that is my sustenance. This is the sustenance of the Torah. The ritual of the golden calf and its purification power is the quintessential statute, well beyond our comprehension. By fulfilling Hashem's commands that we don't understand we sustain the continuity of adhering to the Torah's precepts. When our children are young and begin their Torah training they have very limited understanding of the "what's and why's" of what is requested of them. When they see their parents and religious leaders fulfilling "chukim," matters that they do not understand, this brings to their following in their parents' footsteps and doing the like when they are adults. Thus fulfillment of statutes "sustains" the continuity of Torah adherence. (n.l.)
Ch. 19, v. 2: "Adumoh" - Red - "Adumoh" is spelled lacking a Vov after the Dalet. Its' numeric value is fifty. The understanding of "poroh adumoh" was given as a present to Moshe. Not even King Shlomo was able to plumb the depths of understanding this statute. Thus there was a touch of the fiftieth gate of wisdom given to Moshe, the numeric value of "adumoh." Based on the opinion that the most perplexing issue with its laws is how it purifies a corpse-defiled person we might add that "to'mei" also has the value of fifty. (n.l.)
Ch. 19, v. 3: "V'shochat osoh" - And he shall slaughter it - Targum Yonoson ben Uziel writes that after slaughtering it the cow should be examined for any flaws that would render it a "treifoh." I wonder why it is necessary to point this out given that the "poroh adumoh" is equated to a "korban." The gemara Chulin says that we assume that it is not a "treifoh" since the majority of cows are not. This is contrary to the Targum Yonoson.
Ch. 19, v. 11: "Hano'gei'a b'meis l'chol nefesh odom v'to'mei shivas yomim" - He who touches a corpse of a human soul shall be defiled seven days - The defilement level of one who comes into contact with a corpse is the strictest defilement. It carries over to other people and items on a reduced level and also requires a very detailed, complicated ritual to bring about purification. This is all because Hashem wants to distance people from the bodies of their close kin (besides their involvement in getting them buried). This could bring people to over-mourn their loss or to involve themselves in the occult. (Rabbi Yoseif B'chor Shor)
Ch. 20, v. 1,2: "Vatomos shom Miriam, V'lo hoyoh mayim lo'eidoh" - And Miriam died there, And there was no water for the congregation - Rashi comments that it was in the merit of Miriam that the bnei Yisroel had water for forty years in the desert. Toldos Yitzchok says that their lacking water now was a sort of punishment in kind. We note that the Torah tells of the nation mourning the deaths of both Aharon and Moshe, but not that of Miriam, who was a prophetess, and the older sister of both Aharon and Moshe. Their not pouring tears upon Miriam's death brought a reaction in kind.
Ch. 20, v. 11: "Va'yach es ha'sela" - And he smote the stone - Rashi in the following verse explains that Moshe did not maximize the "kiddush Hashem" because had he only spoken to the stone the masses would have learned a more powerful message of hearkening to Hashem. If a stone, which awaits no reward or punishment follows Hashem's WORD, all the more we should follow Hashem's commands. This is a bit difficult to understand. The stone's miraculously giving forth water in response to being hit with a staff conveys the same message. What difference is there if the mode of communication is "talking to a rock" or hitting it?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein in Dorash Moshe explains that we could have learned the message that our WORDS have a positive effect when we attempt to bring someone closer to proper Torah observance, even when we feel we are "talking to a rock." This lesson is not derived from smiting the rock. Perhaps there is another symbolism here as well. The Torah is likened to water. The first time, Moshe hit the rock and it issued forth water. Now he was to speak to it. Issuing forth water, studying and understanding Torah comes with difficulty, symbolized by smiting. When one continues studying, understanding comes more easily, just as speaking is a lesser effort than smiting. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 21, v. 5: "V'nafsheinu kotzoh b'lechem haklokeil" - And our soul is disgusted with negligible bread - Rashi says that the bread was considered negligible because it was totally absorbed into the body, with no waste expelled. They complained, "The manna will swell in our intestines. Can a human being take in and not have output?" This is most puzzling. They existed this way for close to forty years with no problems!
The gemara Gitin 56b relates the story of Rabbi Tzodok, who fasted for forty years. When he was given an expanded diet, it was done in very carefully measured, tiny increments, so that he not have a sudden expansion of his intestines, which could well be fatal.
Their complaint was not about the manna itself, but that when they would enter Eretz Yisroel and begin eating normal food, they would die, because their digestive waste expelling system was not functioning all these years. "Osid hamon she'yisApach" (meaning it will cause to swell, not "she'yispach," it itself will swell - this point seems to be necessary for the correct understanding of this insight) b'mei'einu." (Sifsei Tzadik)
Ch. 21, v. 9: "V'hibit el n'chash hanchoshes vochoy" - And he will stare at the copper snake and he will live - Toldos Yaakov Yoseif writes that we see here that a snake can poison and a snake can heal. This is akin to the gemara Yoma 10a, that a person who is considered a Torah scholar should react to someone who has wronged him as a snake acts. This means that the Torah scholar has the power to punish strictly and to heal. Degel Machaneh Efrayim add that since his power comes from the Torah he is required to have these two powers, just as the Torah is called both an elixir of life and the reverse as well.
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