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by Daneal Weiner

Parshas Chukas
We've got a parsha thats chock-full of...all sorts of chocks. We have the red heifer (not to be confused with Redd Fox), the passing on of Miriam and Aharon, the first time-travel (38 years in the blink of a posuk), the 'sin' of Moshe, the attack of Amalek, the plague and the copper snake and the battles with Amalek and Sichon, and those are just the obvious. There is still the hinted, the hidden, obscure, shrouded, esoteric, cryptic, enigmatic, and need I say, anagogic content as well.

But lest I go on all day...(I do have a thesaurus)...

Introducing the red heifer / parah adumah. H' tells Moshe (19:2) "Zos chukas haTorah..." "this is a decree of the Torah..." 'Decree' is a bad translation for 'chukas,' the root being 'choke', (khoke, hoke, any way you want to spell it to get that 'spitting' sound. If I didn't have the word 'chock' above I probably wouldn't have needed to clarify). A choke is a command from H' for which we were given no reason. H' says do so we do. Of course, this is the reason for every mitsva. But since G-d did create us with a thirst for knowledge He let us in on a few things. Some, however, were kept a mystery as a reminder.

King Solomon, the wisest of all men, said in Koheles (7:23) "I thought I could become wise yet it is far from me.What is 'it' refering to? The only thing in the world that was beyond the grasp of Shlomo HaMelech, the red heifer. (ok, could be confused with Redd Fox) Not only has tradition handed this down but the Ba'al HaTurim points out that also the gematria of "And it is far", "v'he rechoka" =341 ="parah aduma."

Gemorah Yoma 14a> An argument between Rebbi Akiva and the other Rabbis. Rebbi Akiva says the water and ashes from the Parah Aduma can make pure the unclean and can contaminate the pure. The Rabbis say that if it can make pure the unclean than it can certainly keep pure the already pure. (We see in the parsha what happens to who when. What the Gemorah is discussing is sprinkling an unclean individual verses sprinkling a pure/clean individual.) In most cases, when between one Rabbi versus a group we side with the majority. The Gem. Yoma sides with...R. Akiva!!! But not only is R. Akiva the minority, what he says doesn't make sense!? How can we side with him? That is EXACTLY why we do! Remember King Solomon? If he doesn't get it, we sure don't and the rabbis make sense.

The B'eir Yoseph says "Just one cow poking minute!" There is a little known medrish and it says that H' TOLD MOSHE the reason for the Parah Aduma and that He was keeping it from the rest of us till the world to come!?! So this means that there is a reason and it is understandable by mankind! Just because only Moshe was privy that makes it the big mysterious choke that everyone is hububing over?

The B'eir Yoseph then asks a stronger question. It says later on in Deut.4:5-8 (Moshe is speaking) "I have taught you decrees(chokes)...You shall safeguard and perform them, for it is your wisdom and discernment in the eyes of the people (gentiles) who shall hear all the decrees (chokes) and say, 'Surely a wise and discerning people is this great nation!'...And which is a great nation that has righteous decrees (chokes)..." This is all fine and dandy till you look at Rashi in our parsha on our opening verse (19:2) "The soton and the other nations will MOCK Israel saying 'Holy Cow!? What is this mitsva? What's the reason for it?' " This choke is the antithesis of itself!?!?!? Hashem, whats going on? If you gave Moshe a bean then why not spill the rest?

The truth is, we already know the answer but in the B'eir Yosephs words, maybe it can be appreciated a little more. Hashem wants us to understand just how much we don't understand. The universe is so vast, so deep, so complex, elaborate, amultiplicity of interrelated elements, mystifying, dare I say, reticular that even if we do something that makes perfect sense, the REALITY is that we have relatively no idea what we are doing, why we do it or what it affects.

What we do know is that when you are standing in the courtyard of the Temple and you see a kohen, as pure as humanly pure can be, then along comes a Jew who has just spent 7days in isolation. Then this holy kohen sprinkles a couple drops on the Jew. The Jew is now welcome back into society and the kohen now has togo into isolation. This is a vibrant reminder of the living G-d.

You may not understand why your spouse is your better half, why your kids are your greatest joy and greatest grief, why do the good suffer and the evil flourish, why does colder water sink till 32 degrees and then decide to float, how is the perforation on Israeli toilet paper stronger than the paper itself or why the Parah Aduma works the way it does. What we can understand is that H' is in charge and in control. And when we know that everything He does is for our good, it kinda makes it easier to cope. Now isn't that extra special?

Why not until Olam HaBah that we will all understand or rather why will we even then? Because then our neshamot will exist without the physical limitations of the body. In a similar vein was all Yisroel dying by Har Sinai at hearing the commandments. Just like we can only withstand so much Divine revelation, there is also a limit to what Divine concepts our minds can grasp. Pharaoh had trouble believing that 1 G-d had control over "opposite forces." This was a lesson taught by the hail and fire together. All paradoxes will be understood when nothing stands in the way of our understanding. Understood?

By the way, I just popped open my pocket dictionary to check 'dying'. (I knew diing was out but dieing had me wondering.) There were 2 definitions. 1)Cease to live 2) Look forward to. We are already!!!!

A possible question. Why did Moshe and not Shlomo get the inside scoop if noone else was going to know anyway? A probable answer. I don't know. If I were paid a dollar to guess I would say that twice Moshe was on Har Sinai for 40 days without food or water. Maybe his physicality was not as limiting to what he was mentally able to grasp either. In Olam Habah we will all know all the answers, all the different opinions, all the different conclusions. Bayom hahu yiheyeh H' echad ushmo echad. On that day G-d will be One and His Name will be One.

After one comes two. Moshe takes water out of the rock a second time by hitting the rock twice. ArtScroll takes water out of the rock as well. You'll have to find one to see what I mean because they use the hebrew spelling. To transliterate it all here would be silly. However...

Juxtaposed to the explanationless red heifer is the 'sin' of Moshe upon which the Sha'arai Aharon brings down 25 different explanations of what kept Moshe out of Israel. This whole episode is just a few verses long. (20:7-12) The gist of the story is 1) H' tells Moshe to take the staff and Aaorn. 2) To gather the people and speak to the rock 3)Moshe says 'Hear now ye rebels' 4)'From this rock we will bring forth water?' Seems pretty staight forward.

Rashi leads the first camp. He says the sin was striking the rock. He said that when Miriam died, not only did the rock stop watering but it went to sit by his other rock friends. Moshe began speaking to the rocks waiting to happen upon Miriam's. B"Y was growing impatient and began to heckle Moshe, "It's a miracle,just use any rock! That one! That one! That one!" Moshe finally said, "You rebels! If G-d wanted me to draw water from Miriam's rock, do you think from this rock we will bring forth water?!" In his anger he struck that next rock and H' arranged that he just happened upon Miriam's rock.

Following Rashi's lead, Rabbi Hirsch explains that what B"Y was questioning was Moshe's leadership. (20:4,5) "Why did YOU [Moshe] bring us to this inhabitable place with no plant life or water?" To this H' told Moshe, "Take the staff, the symbol of leadership that has been in your hand since leaving Egypt, and speak to the rock." Rav Hirsch continues saying that words are the true nature of the world. H' created the world with 10 utterances. The 10 Commandments. Prayer has always been a critical ingredient in everything our forefathers did. The Gemorah looks at life on earth as inanimate, vegetable, animal and talkers. This helps understand the severity in using our words negatively. We're abusing are very essence. But I digress.

If Moshe were to speak to the rock, "Rock, water please," this would show B"Y that they were, in fact, on course and on schedule. Moshe did a good job. There's been water ready and waiting.

Unfortunately, Moshe struck the rock. The seemingly natural was turned into an act of force. Moshe forced the rock to give water that wasn't there. ie: H' intervened on his behalf and created a special miracle.These means that Moshe blew his affirmation of leadership and thereby lost his credibility to lead B"Y into Erets Yisroel. OY!

The Chanukas HaTorah says that Moshe HAD to hit the rock! Gem. Baba Metsia 86b> Everything that Avraham did for his 3 guest (the angels) so too did H' do for B"Y. What Avraham asked a messenger to do H' had a messenger do. Ma'asay avos siman l'banim. The actions of the fathers are an indication for the children. Avraham escorted, The cloud escorted. Avraham fetched food, the mon fell from heaven. But Avraham sent a servant to fetch water so B"Y was going to get water from a servant. That servant is Moshe. Very nice! Sooooo what?

If you hang around for 6 months, in Parshas Bo there is a great dvar Torah that the Shchinah 'resided' in Moshe's throat!! (Ok, hang around for 2 months and we'll relate it in Parshas Vayeilech.) Moshe Rabbeinu's level of prophecy was so high that basically, when Moshe spoke, he wasn't doing the talking. When Moshe went to draw water he knew it had to be by messenger and even though H' said to 'speak,' Moshe was ready to hit. He couldn't speak because it wasn't his voice. An obvious question. G-d knows how to talk. Why did He say 'speak' and not 'strike'? Simple. Because He's G-d!

What does G-d know that we don't? I don't mean everything, be more specific. The future!!! And what does Chazal say about someone who gets mad? That the gates of Gehenom open up before him. You can be sure the Shchinah is not going to be hanging with no angry person. Moshe said, "Hear ye rebels!" He got mad!!! The Shchinah left him!!! His voice was now his own!! He could have brought water as a messenger by speaking!!! Of course G-d knew all this in advance so He said 'speak' to the rock. Moshe, whose plan was hitting due to a correct calculation, when he got mad he lost enough control of himself (another by-product of anger) not to recalculate and to realize that 'speak' indeed meant 'speak.' OY!

A GEVALDIK Chanukas HaTorah! Thank you Mr. HaTorah!

The Ramban leads the 2nd camp. He says that Moshe was supposed to hit the rock and that 'speak' meant 'speak regarding.' Moshe's mistake was in that he did not learn his lesson as the ghost-writer of the Torah.

Rav Dessler explains that when the angels came to Sodom to save Lot, one said, "If there is anyone you want to save then get them now because WE are going to destroy the place." Rabbeinu Chananel says this angel 'sinned' by saying "we!" It had to spend the next 100+ years on earth till Yaakov's dream of the ladder. Then it was allowed back up. Rav Desler asks, how can an angel sin? Everything it does is programed by H'!? He answers it's purpose is to teach us a lesson. This lesson is that we can never lose sight of Who runs the show, even if we seemingly act with our own power. Since Moshe wrote down the Torah at H's request, he knew this incident and was supposed to remember the lesson. The Ramban learns the verse as Moshe questioning the beliefs of B"Y, "You rebels! After all you've seen do you doubt that from this rock WE will bring forth water?" He said the "WE" word. OY!

Another commentary says he was to hit the rock once and the sin was hitting it twice. Another, that he did not singing praise to H' for the miracle. Yet another says Moshe wasn't allowed into Israel because waaaaaay back, after fleeing Egypt and meeting the daughters of Yisro by the well and saving them from the other shepherds, the daughters ran home and said to Yisro, "An Egyptian man saved us." This is in contradistinction (I already used juxtaposed) to Joseph who is called a Hebrew by Potiphar's wife and the Wine Steward and whose bones did make it to E"Y. Yea!

As long as we touched upon, ma'asay avos siman l'banim, towards the end of the Parsha, B"Y tries to make a pact with our enemy, the nation of Edom, descendants of Eisav. Avraham made a treaty with Avimelech and dug 7 wells as a symbolic gesture. This place was called B'eir Sheva. Because of these 7 wells, B"Y lost 7 wars. The Ark was taken as booty by the Philistines for 7 months....Rabbi Desslers brings down the whole list. r'l. Right after B"Y's attempt at peace we see Aaron dies. About 13 chapters later the Torah is going to give the date of Aarons death. Why not now? It's a hint to the fact that he died before his time. Why? Because of the sin of B"Y in trying to make a peace treaty with their enemies. The death of the righteous is an atonement for the sins of the people. Again, a peace treaty was made after the Channukah story, after winning back the temple. It eventually lead to the destruction of the Temple altogether. Hmmm? Where have I read something about a peace treaty? OY!

A shtickle Chassidus is always a good way to brighten a gloomy picture. I'm sorry I leave it for the end and only leave you with mere taste. B'ez. H', soon we'll jump in head first. For right now, Rav Wolfson mentions this Parsha opens with the episode of the red heifer which is a special portion read before Pesach. He explains that The month of Nissan is a time of the year ripe for redemption. Of course it can come any time of the year but that time is most suitable. It is for this reason that the Soton, the prosecutor against B"Y is in the Heavenly Courts in Nissan telling why we don't deserve to be redeemed. It is for this reason that we read the Parah Adumah then, which testifies on our behalf that we serve H' without reason other than Him saying so and we, in fact, do deserve to be redeemed. Yea!

Very nice. So now we are now in the month of Tamuz and Av is waiting around the corner. As we said last week, both are bad times. What is the parah adumah doing for us? Alot! We also said last week that these two months are going to be turned around to times of celebration! Again the soton is in court and again the parah adumah is across the table saying, "Your Honor, I moooooove to strike..." Sorry. I'm laughing too hard to finish.

There's more. The parsha also teaches us what to do when a man dies in a tent. The words of the Torah are (19:14) "Zos hatorah adam ki yamus b'ohel..." The LITERAL translation is, "This is the law for a man when he will die in a tent..." Meaning, you feel like your dying? Here's what you have to do! Doesn't he have enough to worry about without trying to remember a whole bunch of laws? Obviously the context of the following verses are not like that so why does the Torah use this strange grammar?

Rav Wolfson says it's a message for us coming into these days when the soton has the upper hand. Remember how the Torah described Yaakov vs. Eisav? Eisav was a man of the field and Yaakov sat in tents. Those tents are Yeshivas, synagogues, beis medrishes. Sometimes you open up your siddur and you feel nothing! No LIFE in your prayers. You want to sit and learn but it kills you to keep the book open.

There is going to be a lot of this these next two months. The soton invented summer vacation. Pretty low blow! G-d wants us to know, these are the laws for a man who will die. We are going to be tested. The Torah is warning us to be ready for it. When the dentist says, "This is going to hurt, it may be an understatement but it gets us ready. These next two months we have to be ready. We have to beat the soton at his own game. Even when he zaps the life out of you, don't give up. Don't give in. Say those prayers! Learn those pages! And may we soon merit our redemption, our temple and to see these days of mourning revert into their true essences, to times of ultimate celebration! Bimhayrah biyamaynu! The best way to start is to have a lively, full spirited Shabbot Shalom!

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