Parshas Chukas 2018: Understanding The Parah Adumah
Parshas Chukas contains some major events; the passing of both Ahron and Miriam (Moshe’s siblings), the battle with Sichon and Og, an attack against our immortal enemy Amalek, and the quintessential chōk (mitzvah for which meaning is beyond human understanding); the Parah Adumah.
To briefly quote the Charge of The Light Brigade, “Theirs is not to question why, theirs is but to do or die....” - this seems to have strong application in our parsha this week.
Mitzvah observance can be easy to adhere to when we understand or feel good about the commandment (i.e. we shouldn’t murder or we should look after the needs of the sick). But they can also be tricky and difficult when we don’t understand them, i.e. the method of shechting (slaughtering) an animal in the traditional way may not seem to be the most humane way based on today's technology.
There are different categories for the mitzvos:
Mishpatim (laws) that have logical reasons behind them,
Eidos (testimonials) which have stated reason,
Chukim which have no reason logical or stated.
The Parah Aduma (literally meaning “red cow”) was a completely red heifer that was taken and ritually slaughtered. Its ashes were put into a mixture and used to purify people who were tamei (spiritually contaminated). Yet, those who prepared the Parah Adumah became impure themselves . Therein lies the difficulty; how can a naturally impure item (animal corpse) can be transformed into a device for purifying, yet those who put the Parah Aduma mixture together became impure?
All of the commandments and laws in the Torah are of Divine Origin - Hashem Himself ordained them. The Rambam points out, the laws and ordinances are from Hashem’s intelligence and any individual who attempts to comprehend these chukim that are not to be comprehended, demonstrates a limitation of his intellect. There is nothing meaningless, fake, or untrue in the Torah and if it seems that way, it is only a product of our own deficiency.
There are many other mitzvos in the Torah that are chukim as well. However, even though we don't necessarily know “why” we still need to know wholeheartedly that we are performing and fulfilling the word of G-d.
It’s often easy to perform mitzvahs that we understand and believe to be logical but it’s a whole different story to perform mitzvahs that seem to make little or no sense and may even go against our own conventional wisdom or viewpoints. Each time we can do a mitzvah l’shma (for Hashem’s sake), not for our own satisfaction, understanding, or pleasure we are not only fulfilling His word but we are doing it exactly how our Creator wants us to. Now that’s something we can understand!
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters