Weekly Reading Insights: Chukat 5765


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Chukat

To be read on 2 Tamuz 5765 (July 9)

Torah: Numbers 19:1-22:1
Haftorah: Judges 11:1-23 (Messengers to Edom)

Pirkei Avot Chapter 4

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

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:39-65/Chukat)

If you ask how 600,000 people draw water from that well, then you should know that there were 12 streams and the water gushed forth from the well and filled these streams that then flowed to all sides. Then, when the Israelites camped and wanted water, they would stand on the side of the stream bed and sing a song, "Spring up, O well..." (Num. 21:17) - "Raise up source of waters, so there will be enough water for all Israel and for the herds". Thus they would sing praises to that higher well [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:39-65/Chukat)

It is termed "heifer" because of malchut, "red" because of hod, "pure" because of yesod, "unblemished" because of gevura, and "which has never worn a yoke" because of bina.

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

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From the "Shlah". (S:39-65/Chukat)

Our answer to such arguments must be that this would be a very poor way for G-d to win adherents to His law. Surely, if He had only wanted to secure our obedience, He would have legislated only laws that we could comprehend, and which by their logic would make us accept Him as our supreme authority! The only reason then that He legislated such apparently illogical laws must be that they are beneficial for us, though we do not understand how - a condition due to the limitation of our perceptive faculties!

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


"This is the law when a man dies in a tent (ohel)." (19:14)
Symbolically, the tent is the "tent of Torah study"; the "dying" symbolic of the devotion of the Torah scholar, who "kills" himself with the effort. Unfortunately, it often happens that the Torah is only valued when it is still in the ark, and the Torah scholar isn't appreciated until after he is lying in his grave (another meaning of the word "ohel"), as no one paid much attention to him during his lifetime...
(Nachalei Devash)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"This is the Torah's decree... have them bring you a completely red cow which has no blemish." (Numbers 19:2)
There is a profound link between the precept of the "red heifer" and the principle of Messianic redemption: Mitzvot signify life. When one follows the commandments one attaches himself to the Al-mighty and draws spiritual vitality from the Source of All Life. Sin signifies death. Violating G-d's will disrupts attachment to the Creator, thus bringing about the "impurity of death." Both the red cow and the Messianic redemption effect purification. For just as the ashes of the red cow are used for removing a legal state of impurity, the Final Redemption with Moshiach will purify the entire people of Israel from any trace of deficiency in their bond with G-d.
(Peninei HaGeula)

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:39-65/Chukat)

In this week's Torah reading, once again the Jews rebel against G-d and Moses. As a consequence, G-d sent poisonous snakes to bite the people as a punishment. The people begged Moses to pray on their behalf, saying, "We sinned...pray to G-d that He remove the snake from us" (Num. 21:7), which Moses promptly did. Rashi explains from this that when someone is asked to forgive, he or she should not be cruel, and should forgive.

How can we apply this to our own lives? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that there are three levels of forgiveness: 1) Forgiveness that protects the offender from punishment: a person may pray for the person who harmed him or her, but only in order to prevent any punishment being meted out. 2) Forgiveness not only for the offending act, but for the person who caused the harm. In other words, no grudge is held. 3) The forgiveness is so heartfelt that the sin is totally uprooted leaving no taint, as if it never happened; in this case, the relationship is totally restored to its former positive state.

In the matter of the snakes, Moses prayed "for the sake of the people". Not only did Moses pray for their lives (that the punishment of the snakes cease), he prayed for their sake, for the people. This is a demonstration of Moses' complete love of the Jewish people. Their malevolence had no effect on Moses. He continued to love his people in the same measure as before. He achieved the third and highest level of forgiveness. Even more, Moses' manner of forgiving was not "cruel", as Rashi writes, "don't be cruel, and forgive" - don't forgive in a cruel way. He was not satisfied with just preventing fatalities, he also completely loved and wished well for those same people who rose up against him.

The Midrash says that G-d, in His own way, performs all the deeds He commands of us. Just as we see every day that G-d forgives us with His unbounded mercy, He also expects us to completely forgive one another. Additionally, when we consider how great and kind G-d is in constantly restoring our relationship with Him - no matter how insensitively we act - we are inspired to reciprocate with a feeling of wanting to improve our relationship with Him, to return to G-d. This tremendously powerful return to G-d goes against the natural trend of life, bend the limits of Creation. This in turn will be an impetus for G-d to also defy the world's trend and bring Mashiach - may it be NOW!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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