Weekly Reading Insights: Chukat 5766

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Chukat (in Israel)
Korach outside Israel

To be read on 5 Tamuz 5766 (July 1)

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

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 5 in Israel (Chapter 4 outside of Israel)

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:3966/Chukat)

And when the wicked became more numerous in the world [and were not worthy of using this revealed secret as method of proving a transaction] a different way of attesting to a transaction was chosen. This was in order to conceal the higher secret behind the symbolism.

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:3966/Chukat)

Regarding the essence of the [rite of the] red heifer, King Solomon, of blessed memory, said, "I said, 'I will become wise,' but it was far from me" (Ecclesiastes 7:23), as our sages explained. ( Bamidbar Rabba 19:3)

Know that [this is because] the basis of the [rite of the] red heifer is [that it expresses] how malchut receives from the back of the Holy Names, and not from their front.

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

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From Rebbeinu Bachya (O:3966/Chukat)

Some Kabbalists answered these questions by saying that indeed the entire Red Cow was "Holy of Holies" and that the reason it conferred impurity on its handlers was that any pure person on earth will automatically become impure through contact with extra-terrestrial purity i.e. celestial purity [or sanctity]. This concept is reflected in the Torah phrase "anyone touching the Altar will become holy" (Ex. 29:37), i.e. will be burnt [as had happened to the two sons of Aaron Nadab and Abihu].

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


"Speak to the Children of Israel, that they bring to you a completely red cow on which there is no blemish, that has never borne a yoke." (19:2)
"It should be perfect in redness; if there were two black hairs upon it, it would be disqualified." Rashi
In the same way a red heifer is prevented from being "perfect" by the appearance of two black hairs, so too is a Jew's perfection disqualified by even the slightest "hairsbreadth" of dishonesty or deception, as it states, "You shall be perfect [whole] with the L-rd your G-d."
(Chidushei HaRim)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"…Speak to the Israelites and have them bring you a completely red cow, which has no blemish…" (Num. 19:2)

The mitzva of the red cow was practiced at the time of the Temple. Its function was to purify (through the sprinkling of the ashes of the red cow on the person) anyone who had been in contact with a deceased person, an impurity as a result of which he would not be able to enter the Temple.

There is a strong connection between the mitzva of the red cow and the redemption.
In exile, not only is the Jewish People impure from a halachic (Jewish law) point of view from being in contact with the deceased without means to be purified, also from a spiritual point of view they are impure. The exile, after all, is caused by "because of our sins were we exiled from our land." Sins are an obstacle to our connection to
G-d. The connection to Him is what purifies the person.

Just as the ashes of the red cow purify the Jew according to halacha, so will the redemption purify him from a spiritual point of view.

Pniney Geula

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:3966/Chukat)

The week's reading opens, "This is the statute of the Torah which G-d commanded..." (Num. 19:2) and then goes on to describe the laws of the Red Heifer and the purification process from defilement incurred through contact with the dead. This mitzvah is the classic supra-rational command.

Rashi explains that the specific wording in the verse addresses the taunts of the Adversary and the Nations of the World who question us regarding the reason for this mitzvah. "This is the statute" answers that the Red Heifer is a divine decree that cannot be comprehended. Rebbe Yechiel Michel notes that there is, in fact, a known Midrashic explanation for the Red Heifer: Just as a mother must clean the mess of her child, so, too, this heifer comes to repair the damage done through the sin of her child, the Golden Calf. When scoffers approach the Jews asking about the heifer, they are actually intending to remind us of our transgression. This is what the verse answers them: "This is a statute...which G-d commanded" and there is no reason for it. Nevertheless, we must remind ourselves that we must still improve our relationship to G-d.

The mitzvah of the Red Heifer is connected to the Redemption. Exile causes "impurity" on a spiritual plane, impeding the proper service of G-d. This impurity comes from our sins. The difference between mitzvot and sins is that mitzvot connect us to G-d, eliciting positive spiritual energy; sins, on the other hand, occlude this spiritual channel to G-d. This lack of spiritual connection leads to the spiritual impurity of the exile. The ashes of the Red Heifer and the Redemption both purify the Jewish people. Sprinkling the ashes of the red heifer on a defiled person purified him, enabling him to enter the sanctuary. The Redemption purifies everyone, even those who are technically impure, from even a hint of alienation from our Father in Heaven. The prophet Ezekiel used the analogy of the red heifer when speaking about the Final Redemption: "And I will throw upon you pure waters and purify your impurities." (Ezekiel 36:25)

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Wednesday night - Thursday day, the 3rd of Tammuz, is the sixth anniversary of the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. During his final years, he often challenged us, asking: What have we done until now to hasten the redemption? He would exhort his disciples:
A person must ponder when the last time was that he honestly thought about Mashiach in a way that was personally meaningful; that all of the above is truly referring to him and not to someone else; that, through Mashiach, the Holy One Blessed Be He is about to take him out of this exile and he himself, with Mashiach, will go to the Land of Israel! Each person should seclude himself to a place where he will be alone and there make a true account.

Doing so will lead us to thoughts of returning to G-d. Through this we can bring the Final Redemption immediately, since these sincere thoughts will bring us, and the whole world, merit in the eyes of Heaven, and thereby precipitate the Redemption. If we accept upon ourselves to serve as "illuminators", to lead and to enlighten all of those around us, then through our shining forth with the "candle of the mitzvot and the light of the Torah" (Proverbs 6:23), we will dispel the darkness of exile and bring the light of the Redemption. This must be undertaken with genuine effort and self-sacrifice.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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

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