Weekly Reading Insights: Chukat 5764


1) Overview of this week's reading

6) One Law of Shabbat per week

2) From the Sages of Kabbala:
Zohar / Ari /Shalah

7) Pirkei Avot - Chapter of the Week
(from Pesach to Rosh Hashana)

3) From the Chassidic Rebbes

8) For more insights from Kabbala into this week's Reading from KabbalaOnline.org

4) An in-depth essay from the Chabad Master series

9) For mystical and other insights for the upcoming festival, go to holidays and kabbala

5) From Rabbi Shaul Leiter, Director

!0) You will also appreciate (sometimes) related items on Shoot the rabbi, Stories, Humor, and Sports.



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Chukat

To be read on 7 Tamuz 5764 (June 26th )
Torah: 19:1-22:1
Haftorah: Judges 11:1-23 (Messengers to Edom)

Korach is the 6th Reading out of 10 in Numbers and 39th overall, and 39th out of 54 in overall length.

Pirkei Avot: Chapter Five

Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1) opens with G-d's command to slaughter a red heifer whose ashes purify those who had contact with the dead. The water the Jews had in the desert came in the merit of Miriam the prophetess, Moshe's sister. After her passing, the Jews complain about the subsequent lack of water. G-d then tells Moshe to speak to a certain rock; when Moshe instead hits the rock to bring forth water, Moshe and Aharon are punished with a decree that they will not merit to enter the Land. Next, the Jews request to pass through the Land of Edom, but the Edomites refuse, and the Jews must go around. Following this, Aharon passes away on Mt. Hahar. When the Cana'anite king of Arad hears that the Jews are nearing his land, he wages war with them. G-d fulfills the Jews' request to allow them to defeat the Cana'anites and conquer their land, which they dedicate to G-d in return for their victory. The Jews complain to Moshe again, and G-d sends poisonous snakes to bite them. Moshe prays on the Jews' behalf, and G-d tells him to make an image of a snake; Moshe makes a copper snake, places it on a pole, and those that gaze up at the copper are cured of their snake bites. Next are details about some of the places where the Jews traveled and also the Song of the Well. The parsha concludes relating the Jews' defeat of Sichon and Og, two very powerful kings, and the conquest of their lands.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:39-64/Chukat)

King David represents the sefira of malchut, and his activities were all in order to manifest this sefira on earth. Midrash Rabba (18:17) comments on this verse that King David established the "yoke" of repentance and established the requirement to say 100 blessings each day to rectify and sweeten the sefira of malchut.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:39-64/Chukat)

As we have explained previously, judgment is a necessary component of the process of transmission of divine beneficence. But when it is exercised outside of its proper context, judgment adds strength to the powers of evil.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

* * * * *

From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:39-64/Chukat)

Moses however, did not make a seraph; he rather made a snake, seeing that he considered restoring G-d's honor as more important than restoring his own honor, even though a seraph was what G-d had instructed him to make. From all this we learn to what extent we must be careful not to besmirch the honor of Torah scholars, righteous people, etc.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"This is the statute of the Torah...a completely red cow."

Why does the Torah refer to the laws of the red heifer as the "statute of the Torah" rather than "the statute of the red heifer," which would seem more logical? To teach us that the concept of purity is central to Judaism, the very foundation of a Torah-true life. Rather than constituting only one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot, it is the basis and starting point for all the others.

(Peninei Torah)


"This is the law, when a man dies in a tent." (19:14)

When do the holy words of Torah truly endure? According to the Talmudic Sage Reish Lakish, only if a person "kills" himself (demonstrates real self-sacrifice) in the "tents" of Torah learning. And as the verse continues, "everyone who comes into the tent, and all that is in the tent"- anyone who comes into contact with the Torah scholar and supports his study will derive benefit.

(Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:39-64/Chukat)

"And G-d said...this is the law of the Torah... take to yourself a pure red heifer that has no blemish, that never bore a yoke." (Num. 19:1-2)

Regarding the words "pure red", the word "pure" modifies the redness. The heifer has to be pure red to the extant that if it grows even two black hairs in its first year, it is disqualified. The Sefat Emet writes that people are also commanded to be "pure". While an animal is allowed two black hairs before it is disqualified, even the smallest misstep causes us to lose the title "pure". It is true that when we stand in front of the Heavenly Court to be judged, we will not be alone in having transgressed. The person about whom it can be said "This one is pure" is indeed truly special.

There have been a total of nine red heifers in the history of the Jewish people, from the first one in the desert until the destruction of the Second Temple. The Midrash says that the tenth and last heifer will be found just before the arrival if Mashaich. Since Mashiach will cause the Third Temple to be built, we will need the ash of the red heifer to purify ourselves before we can serve in the Temple. Every once in a while you hear in the news in Israel that a red heifer was found, but so far none have made it through the first year. May it be the will of the Almighty that we all merit to live in the times when the tenth red heifer is found.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe speaks about the difference between the word "Korach" - the name of last week's reading and "Chukat", the name if this week's reading: Both words have the letters chet and kuf which spell "chok", which means "law" in Hebrew. In addition, the word "Korach" has a reish, and "Chukat" has a tav. Let's compare these two letters to the letter hei, the last letter of G-d's Ineffable Name, and the best model for how we are supposed to act in relation to the world:

On the right side of the hei is a full vertical line, exemplifying speech. The small line on the left exemplifies action. Korach was an evil person, consumed by his ego, who rebelled against Moses and Aaron. His name is appropriately spelled with a reish, telling us (relating to the letter hei) that when it came to true action, he was empty, lacking. Tav, on the other hand, has a full left line.

What is the secret of being able to act in a correct and complete way? The secret is the tiny fraction of a line that we find at the left base of the tav. This is to tell us that to fulfill our purpose properly, we have to be humble and nullified to G-d's Will. Once this has been accomplished, we will always be able to properly complete the actions that are required of us.

The Kotzker Rebbe said that someone who sees himself as complete, who after self-examination feels he has no negative qualities, has a sure sign that he has not yet truly taken on himself the yoke of heavenly service. Anyone who does so sincerely will see that he is not perfect and has a long way to go to serve the Almighty properly.

In the book Divrei Torah, it is written that the opening verse contains a directive as to how our service to G-d should be: Pure - when we are commanded to do a mitzva, we should do so purely, without complaining or looking for excuses. No blemish - we should do our service in a complete way, not leaving anything out. No yoke - we should not view the commandments as a burden.

In the middle of the reading, we find that Moses was denied entrance to the Land of Israel. After the death of Miriam, the well that supplied the water for the Jewish people in the desert dried up. The people complained about the lack of water. Moses was commanded to gather all the people together and publicly command a certain rock, identified with the well, to renew the water supply. That the rock responded to Moses' words would have constituted a sanctification of G-d's name.

The Midrash explains the course of events that brought Moses to hit the rock, instead of simply speaking, and not just once but twice! (Me'am Loez describes it very beautifully - I suggest everyone read it.) In the confusion, Moses yelled at the watching masses calling them "rebels". While there are different opinions about what exactly Moses had done wrong, the Rambam says he was not punished because of hitting the rock, but rather because Moses became angry at the Jewish people. Even if they deserved to be reprimanded, G-d expected more of a person of Moses' stature.


The Shlah writes that we all should take a lesson from this about how much the Almighty values our acting properly. Especially in public, where an outsider who is watching can judge the entire Jewish nation because of something we do individually, it is very important to be in control as much as we can.

Had Moses been allowed into the Land, he would have conquered the inhabiting nations and built the First Temple. In Moses' merit, the Temple would not have been destroyed, and this long and bitter exile we are in would never have begun. So much lost because of anger!

Chasidut explains that there is a positive side. When we finally do enter the Land, it will be with Moses at our head. Moses was the first redeemer, and the soul of Moses, reincarnated in the leader of the generation, will be the final redeemer that ushers in the end of the exile. He did not lose out completely. Rather G-d was saving him for the last "Hurrah!" May we see it soon!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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