Torah Weekly

For the week ending 23 June 2007 / 7 Tammuz 5767

Parshat Chukat

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The laws of the para aduma the red heifer are detailed. These laws are for the ritual purification of one who comes into contact with death. After nearly 40 years in the desert, Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh. The people complain about the loss of their water supply that until now has been provided miraculously in the merit of Miriam's righteousness. Aharon and Moshe pray for the people's welfare. G-d commands them to gather the nation at Merivah and speak to a designated rock so that water will flow forth. Distressed by the people's lack of faith, Moshe hits the rock instead of speaking to it. He thus fails to produce the intended public demonstration of G-d's mastery over the world, which would have resulted had the rock produced water merely at Moshe's word. Therefore, G-d tells Moshe and Aharon that they will not bring the people into the Land. Bnei Yisrael resume their travels, but because the King of Edom, a descendant of Esav, denies them passage through his country, they do not travel the most direct route to Eretz Yisrael. When they reach Mount Hor, Aharon dies and his son Elazar is invested with his priestly garments and responsibilities. Aharon was beloved by all, and the entire nation mourns him 30 days. Sichon the Amorite attacks Bnei Yisrael when they ask to pass through his land. As a result, Bnei Yisrael conquer the lands that Sichon had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank of the Jordan River.


Quantity VS. Quality

“…abundant water came forth and the people and their animals drank…” (20:11)

The Talmud tells of a man who swore never to marry a certain girl who was in every way appropriate for him until Rabbi Yishmael made her beautiful. Asked if this beautiful girl was the one he had vowed never to marry, he answered in the negative. Upon hearing this, Rabbi Yishmael promptly annulled the vow and the man married the girl.

Said Rabbi Yishmael, “Jewish girls are all beautiful, but poverty makes them ugly.”

The poverty of which Rabbi Yishmael was speaking was not physical poverty.

It was the poverty of negative self-image.

When Rabbi Yishmael said that all Jewish girls are beautiful, he was obviously referring first and foremost to their inner spiritual beauty. As it says in Mishlei, “Grace is false and beauty, empty.”

Rabbi Yishmael ‘made’ this girl beautiful by making here aware of the beauty that lay dormant in her. The beauty that was so undervalued.

Everything you can see today in the street is a message to Jewish girls that they are poor. They are poor of the qualities of exhibitionism that the world so greatly admires. They are poor because they are not naturally brazen. In the name of fashion, the Jewish woman has been persuaded that she is poor, that her true value is valueless, that her riches are illusory.

In truth, real poverty is a world that values only the “outside”; a world where plastic surgery accounted for nearly 11 million procedures in the United States last year.

When G-d commanded Moshe to bring forth water from the rock, He said “You shall bring forth for them water from the rock and give drink to the people and their animals.” When Moshe brought forth the water from the rock, the Torah says, “…abundant water came forth and the people and their animals drank…”

In the first verse the Torah omits the adjective ‘abundant’. In the second verse the dividing pronoun “et” is missing. In other words, the people and the animals are referred to as one category.

What is the message here?

If we do as G-d commands, the physical world will become spiritualized; the spiritual will infuse the physical and we will not need an ‘abundance,’ nor will we fall prey to society’s view of man as a higher form of animal. An insatiable lust for abundance is characteristic of the world in which we live; a world where quantity masquerades as quality; where the outside tries to usurp the inside; where the physical makes the spiritual poor.

We need to know, and when I say we, I mean the major target of the world’s attack, the Jewish woman, that her riches are beyond number, for “a woman who fears G-d, she will be praised.”

A personal note:

Many readers have written to me to ask about my sister who was involved in a tragic accident almost a year ago, and I thank you for all your concern and prayers. Please carry on davening for my sister Chaya Esther bas Rochma who is still in a coma. We pray that Hashem in His mercy will send a miracle and she will open her eyes and be restored to full health very soon.

We are looking forward to celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of our oldest son Avraham Zev next week. The reception is at Ulamei Beit Yisrael in Jerusalem on Thursday June 28th from 8:30PM and Avrumie’s aliya to the Torah will be at Yeshivat Ohr Somayach, Shabbat Parshat Balak, June 30th. Shacharit is at 8:00am. Kiddush to follow at Ulamei Zwill. We will happy to see you there!

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