Torah Weekly

For the week ending 2 July 2011 / 29 Sivan 5771

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.


Too Rich And Too Thin

“This is the decree of the Torah” (19:2)

Who would ever have thought that Judaism, or at least its more arcane teachings, would have become hip amongst the glitterati? And yet it’s happened. Pop stars and other media darlings are all hot-footing it to be the latest adherents of Instant Kabbala. While one may suspect that this gross trivializing of the deepest secrets of the cosmos is no more than another quick fix for an increasingly jaded generation, this ‘one-stop’ spiritual shopping actually reveals a deep-seated longing.

Modern man displays a curious dichotomy: On the one hand he has rejected religion. Church attendance figures reveal a tide of apathy and empty pews. On the other hand -“Instant Internet Kabbala” - an enormous clamor for all kinds of spiritual exotica and esoteric wisdom.

Our Sages tell us that “the lover of money will not be satisfied by money.” To re-mint an old saying: “You can never be too rich or too thin.” (Anorexics of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your appetites!) Someone who has a million dollars doesn’t want another million. He already has that and it didn’t do the trick. What he wants is two million. Of course, the same goes for someone who has two million, four million, or a million million. A person in never satisfied with what he has. Most of die with not even half our desires fulfilled.

But there’s another saying by our Sages which is a little more difficult to fathom. “The lover of Torah will not be satisfied by Torah.” It’s easy to understand why material craving leads to more material craving. The desire for possessions is really the desire to possess. The act of taking possession is the sweetness. The actual object of my desire itself ceases to give me the kick that I’m looking for once I own it. To engulf and devour is the lust for a process — not for the thing in itself.

But why should the lover of Torah never be satisfied with Torah?

In this week’s Torah reading, we learn about the mitzvah of the Red Cow. The Red Cow was the quintessential command whose function is hidden from the mind of man. King Solomon himself, the wisest of men, declared, “I said I would be wise, but it is far from me.” (Proverbs 7:23) The paradox of the Para Aduma (the Red Cow) is that while it purifies from the spiritual miasma that results from contact with death, it itself taints those who prepare it. In other words, it purifies the impure and taints the pure. This paradox is beyond the mind of man. Only the Mind of the Creator can fathom such antilogy.

The root of all knowledge is another seeming paradox. To know that there is a Knowledge beyond knowledge, beyond the hollow skull of man. We live in a world that has been tainted by the concept that what is beyond the mind of man cannot exist. This is the basis of all atheism. Those empty pews speak its impact, of its power to corrupt.

Those who reach for spirituality, albeit in a superficial way, reflect the axiom: “The one who loves Torah, will not be satisfied by Torah.” A person is never satisfied with his spiritual level. He always wants to be closer to G-d. And the closer he becomes, the more he feels the distance that remains.

In the book of Job it says, “Who can draw a pure thing out of an impure one? Is it not the One? (Job 14:4) Only He Who is One can draw a pure generation out of an impure one.

However, the Torah does not yield its secrets to everyone. Someone who thinks that they can achieve a quick spiritual fix by a superficial embrace with mysticism will find themselves, at best, disappointed. For G-d gave his most secret wishes in the form of a Divine kiss.

And just like a kiss, it is bestowed only on those of the greatest intimacy.

  • Sources: Talmud Avoda Zara 35a, Tosefot ibid; Rabbi E. E. Dessler

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