For the week ending 19 June 2021 / 9 Tamuz 5781

Parashat Chukat

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The laws of the Parah Adumah, 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. Hashem 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 Hashem's mastery over the world, which would have resulted had the rock produced water merely at Moshe's word. Therefore, Hashem tells Moshe and Aharon that they will not bring the people into the Land.

The Jewish People 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.


Show Me the Waze To Go Home

“Come to Cheshbon” (21:27)

I well remember, before setting off on a trip, pulling out my somewhat dog-eared maps and carefully planning my route. I carefully considered the prevailing traffic at my estimated times along journey, and committed to memory the route, jotting down the names or numbers of the highways that I would need to take.

Who'd a-thought that that just a few short years later, my maps would be gathering mold at the bottom the trunk of my car, and a satellite miles above me in the sky would be guiding me to my destination on a screen in my car? And not only that, but if the traffic situation changed, it would reroute me as I was driving!

Waze sure is a wonderful invention. Only problem is if the satellite doesn't work, or your phone can’t pick up the signal.

A few years ago, one of my sons was attending a Yeshiva in the south of Israel, and my wife and I made several trips to visit him. I jumped in the car, fired up Waze, and off we went. We must have made the journey at least five or six times, when one day I realized that Waze had gone “on the blink.” I suddenly started to pay attention to the road signs and cast my eyes to the left and the right, trying to recognize the scenery.

I had absolutely no idea where I was.

Or how to get to where I wanted to get.

Our lives are full of labor-saving devices that can make our lives full of labor.

When the personal computer first came out, I suggested that every computer that left the factory should have a little sticker on it saying, “You can waste your life saving time.”

One of the most dangerous things in life is to travel through it on “auto-pilot.” Although we may have traveled though similar situations in the past, life choices require constant reevaluation. The “Negative Drive” is a master of misrouting. And what may have been a necessary strategy in the past — or even a mitzvah — now, on this particular journey, the road that we are on may take us far from our goal.

“Come to Cheshbon.”

The Talmud (Bava Batra 78b) expounds this verse in this manner: “Therefore, the allegorists say, ‘Come to Cheshbon.’ … Those who rule over their negative drive say, ‘Come and evaluate the cheshbon (“balance sheet of the world”) — the loss of a mitzvah versus its gain — and the gain of a transgression versus its loss…’ ”

When we fail to do life’s essential map work, we may find ourselves far “awaze” from where we want to be.

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