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Parshas Chukas

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Parshas Chukas
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Does Parah Adumah Have a Reason?

How can we say that Parah Adumah is a Chok and it has no reason? Rashi says in the name of Rebbi Moshe Hadarshan that the Parah Adumah is a Kapara for the Chet HaEgel. The mother cow comes and cleans up the mess of its calf. Is cleaning up our greatest aveira not reason enough?

The answer given by the mefarshim is that the Chet HaEgel was a lapse of emunah on the part of the Bnei Yisroel. Since they could not comprehend what was happening they demanded an intermediary that can help them. They refused to rely on Hashem. They wanted to see and understand their direction. Therefore by accepting the mitzva of Parah Adumah without understanding it rectifies the Chet HaEgel. The kapara of Chet HaEgel is a by product of a mitzva without a reason and not the reason itself.

Parah Adumah - A Lesson In Self Sacrifice

"Zois Chukas HaTorah... ViYikchu Aylecha Parah Adumah"; This is the statute of the Torah... and they shall take to you a Parah Adumah. Why does it say, "Zois Chukas HaTorah" - "This is the statute of the Torah" - instead of "Zois Chukas Parah Adumah" - "This is the statute of the Parah Adumah"?

The laws concerning the Parah Adumah are paradoxical. On the one hand, when the mixture is sprinkled, a person who is Tamai becomes Tahor. On the other hand, those who are involved in the preparation of the Parah Adumah become Tamai.

The people appointed to prepare the Parah Adumah may rationally argue, "Why should we become Tamai for the sake of those who were not careful to avoid contact with a corpse"? Through the Chok of Parah Adumah, the Torah is teaching that a Jew must help another Jew even if reqires sacrifice. This is "Chukas HaTorah" - "a basic principle of Torah" - and though we may not easily comprehend it, we must practice it in our daily lives.

Moshe or Shlomo - The Secret of The Parah Adumah

The Chida explains, the first letters of the words, "LaTamai MeAfar Serayfas HaChatas" can be arranged to spell "Shlomo", and since he found an allusion to his name in the Parsha of Parah Adumah, he assumed that with proper diligence he could understand its meaning and significance.

The Gemara Rosh Hashanah (21b) explains the pasuk, "Koheles (Shlomo) sought to find words of delight" to mean that Shlomo wanted to be equal in wisdom to Moshe. However, a Bas Kol responded, "VeKasuv Yashar Divrei Emes" - "What is written in Sefer Devarim (which is known as "Sefer Hayashar") are words of truth." And in Sefer Devarim it states, "Never again has there arisen in Klal Yisroel a Navi like Moshe."

The Bas Kol can be explained to mean," VeKasuv Yashar" - "That which is written in the proper order is "Divrei Emes" - "Words of truth". Therefore, while there is indeed a hint to Shlomo's name in the parsha, the letters in sequence do not spell "Shlomo", but rather "LeMoshe" - "To Moshe" - meaning that the understanding of the Parah Adumah was revealed only to Moshe and no one else.

Hit the Rock, Talk To It. What Is The Big Fuss?

In Parshas BeShalach when Hashem first wanted the water to flow from the rock Hashem told Moshe to hit it. Why 40 years later when Hahsem wanted to renew the water flow after Miriam's death was Moshe punished for hitting it? The Netziv in the Hemek Davar explains that in the 40th year in the Midbar since the Bnei Yisroel were preparing for ordinary life in Eretz Yisroel, Hashem drastically curtailed Bnei Yisroel's dependence on miracles (Hanhaga Nisi) and led them in an almost natural way (Hanhaga Tiv'i) as opposed to the first 39 years where their whole existence was based on Nisim.

How do you make water flow from a Rock without a Nes?? The gemara in Taanis says that when there is a drought the tzadikim should gather everyone together and talk to them about doing tshuva to bring the rain. Therefore now in the 40th year, Hashem did not want Moshe to hit the rock since that would constitute a Nes. When Hashem told Moshe to speak to the rock He didn't mean talk to the rock, rather Hashem wanted Moshe and Aharon to speak to the people and daven for rain in front of the rock. When Moshe got angry the whole plan failed and he ended up hitting the rock with his special stick to bring water through a Nes and not through tefila.

The direct consequence of this, explains the Netziv, is that Moshe failed the test that would show he was able to lead the Bnei Yiroel in Eretz Yisroel where they would need to live Al Pi Derech Hateva and therefore disqualified himself from entering Eretz Yisroel.

The Mysterious Friday Fast, Burning of The Talmud, Moreh Nevuchim

The Magen Avraham cites a 'practice of individuals' to fast on the Friday prior to the reading of Parshas Chukas [Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim Chapter 580]. In general, it is an anomaly to have a fast day scheduled for a Friday. Of even greater significance is the fact that most fast days are established on a specific calendar date, while this one is not. The Magen Avraham writes that no matter what day of the month the Friday prior to Parshas Chukas falls, that is the day when 'individuals' fast.

What is the significance of this fast day? It commemorates the burning of 20 wagonloads of the Talmud and other Sefarim in France. When the event happened, it occurred on the 9th day of Tammuz. However, various Rabbinic authorities of that day learned through dreams that the 'cause' of the incident was not related to the day on the calendar, but to the fact that it was the day before the Torah reading of Parshas Chukas.

The Magen Avraham explains that the Aramaic Targum of the opening words of the parsha [Bamidbar 19:2] "Zos Chukas HaTorah" [This is the law of the Torah] is "da Gezeiras Oraiysa" [this is the Torah's decree]. This was understood to be a Torah decree that such a tragic event would occur on the Friday before this Torah reading.

The Imrei Shammai supplies additional historical background to this incident. He says that in the exact place where the Talmud and other Sefarim were burnt, the Jews of that town had in previous years publicly burnt the Rambam's Sefer - Moreh Nevuchim.

The Moreh Nevuchim was a controversial work. In those days, the Rambam did not yet have the unquestioning allegiance that he gained in later generations. As surprising as it may seem to us, he had his detractors and there were authorities that were highly critical of the Moreh Nevuchim. In fact, there were even some places where his Sefer HaMadah - the first volume of his Major Work "The Yad HaChazakah" was not accepted.

As a Heavenly punishment for this earlier burning of the Rambam's works, 20 cartloads of Torah books were now publicly burnt. When the Jewish community saw this, they recognized their earlier misdeed and repented by establishing a fast day. They prayed for forgiveness and subsequently there was no more controversy about the Moreh Nevuchim.

In this way they were very fortunate. They had a clear Sign from Shomayim in terms of what they had done wrong. It did not take a genius to put two and two together and draw the appropriate conclusion. The connection was obvious. This is the historical background of the custom of 'individuals' to fast on the Erev Shabbos preceding Parshas Chukas.

Sticks and Stones Break Bones - But Which One Can Bring Water?

"Kach Es HaMateh .... ViDebartem El HaSelah LiAynayhem ViNasan Maimav" "Take the stick... and speak to the rock before their eyes that it shall give its waters." What purpose was the stick to serve, and what was Moshe to say to the rock?

Aaron and Moshe each had their own stick. When Hashem wanted Aaron or Moshe to take his own stick, he would say, "Matecha" - "your stick". Since in this pasuk it says "HaMateh" - "the stick" - obviously it was a special one with unique qualities.

In Parshas Korach, Moshe told the leaders of each Shevet to bring a stick to put in to the Mishkan. On each would be written the leader of that Shevet, with Aaron's name written on the stick of Shevet Levi. The stick belonging to the one who was chosen by Hashem would blossom. The stick of Aaron blossomed and produced almonds and eventually was placed in the Kodesh HaKadoshim next to the Aron. It was this stick that Moshe was to take. This corresponds with the pasuk that says, "Moshe took the stick from before Hashem" (20:9)

The purpose of taking the stick was to show it to the rock as if to say, "Learn this lesson; just as a dry piece of wood suddenly became moist and alive in order to sanctify Hashem's name, so should you sanctify Hashem's name by giving water, even though it is not your nature". (Kli Yakar)

Aharon vs. Eisav - The Hor HaHor Connection

Moshe Rabbeinu was buried on Har Nevo opposite Bais Pe'or in order that he should be Michaper on the Bnei Yisroel's aveira of worshipping Pe'or. The avoda for Pe'or was to relieve oneself in front of it. As preparation for this lowly form of worship one ate as much as he possibly could. Moshe Rabbeinu who stayed in Shamayim for 40 days and 40 nights without food or drink had the ko'ach to defend Bnei Yisroel against the kitrug of this terrible aveira.

Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz says that Eisav also had a kitrug against Bnei Yisroel since he was the oldest by birth and Yaakov took the bechor. Similarly Aharon was older than Moshe, yet he conceded his manhigus to Moshe with a happy heart (ViRa'acha ViSomach BiLiboy) upon his return to Mitzrayim. Aharon was the perfect antidote to defend Bnei Yisroel from the kitrug of Eisav. B'Chasdei Hashem he was buried on Hor HaHor overlooking Eretz Edom the land of Eisav nullifying Eisav's kitrug.

Copper Snakes and Miracles

When Bnei Yisroel were punished with the plague of poisonous snakes, Hashem tells Moshe to make a copper snake and put it on a "Nes" which literally means a high pole. Those who are bitten need to look up at and become healed. Why does the Torah use the word "Nes"? Doesn't Nes mean a "miracle"?

Nature is also a miracle albeit one that we are accustomed to. The same Hashem who commanded oil to light can command vinegar to light. The word for nature "HaTeva" has the same gematria as "Elokim". We call something a "Nes" when it stands out as unusual. Only the supernatural impresses us. Unfortunately the hand of Hashem in all other events that only he orchestrates is lost because of our dull senses. That is why the word we use for miracle is Nes, a high pole. It is an event that causes even the most hardened heart to take notice of the hand of Hashem.

Therefore Hashem tells Moshe put the snake on a high pole. Force Bnei Yisroel to pay attention to Hashem and understand that a plague of snakes although natural can come only from the heavens. Once they understand this important lesson they will automatically be cured.

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