Torah Weekly

For the week ending 1 July 2017 / 7 Tammuz 5777

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 for 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.



“And he will wash his clothes…” (19:7)

The pure becomes defiled and the defiled become pure.

Touching a corpse causes spiritual contamination. Purification from this contamination is achieved through the sprinkling of a mixture of water and the ashes of a red heifer. An anomaly of this process is that while the ashes purify the person who is contaminated, they sully those involved in its preparation.

The red heifer was atonement for the sin of the golden calf. The Talmud (Tractate Avoda Zara 4) explains that, in truth, the people of the generation who sinned with the golden calf were on a high level that was not befitting this sin, but G-d allowed them to stumble so that their repentance would illuminate the path for those to come.

In other words, through this generation’s punishment, salvation emerged for generations to come.

The pure becomes defiled and the defiled become pure.

  • Source: Chatam Sofer

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