Divrei Torah

PARSHAS CHUKAS 5777

This week’s Parsha teaches us about a Mitzva that is beyond human comprehension - the laws involving the Para Aduma – the Red Heifer. The Torah introduces this Mitzva with the words, “This is the law of the Torah.” Mitzvos fall under different categories. There is one category of Mitzvos called Mishpatim. Mishpatim are Mitzvos that we could have figured out on our own. For example – Don’t kill . . . Don’t steal . . . paying for damage . . . returning lost articles. However, even though we understand the reasons for Mishpatim, we do not do them for that reason. Rather, we do them because G-d commanded them.

There is a second category of Mitzvos called testimonies. These Mitzvos testify to the greatness of G-d for all that He has done for us. For example: Shabbos is a testimony that G-d created the world.

The third category of Mitzvos is called Chukim. Chukim are Mitzvos for which we cannot understand the reason. For example: Shaatnez – a forbidden mixture of wool and linen in clothing . . . Kashrus – why certain species of animals, birds and fish are ok to eat while others are not. Why do milk and meat make a prohibition when cooked together, yet separately they are permitted? 

Both of these examples are like saying in mathematics when you add two positive numbers you get a negative, when we know the sum is a greater positive number. Other examples of Chukim are the laws of purity and impurity and – this week’s opening Mitzva – Para Aduma – the red heifer. How can it simultaneously purify and impurify? The impure person is purified with the sprinkling of its ashes mixed with water, while anybody involved in its preparation or procedure becomes impure. 

So, Rashi comments on the spot in today’s Parsha, “because Satan – the accuser, whoever he or she may be and the nations of the world aggrieve Israel by saying, “What is this commandment and what reason is there to it? Therefore, G-d wrote in the Torah statute – which implies that it is a decree from before Me, you do not have the right to question it.” We are permitted to question in order to understand how to properly perform a Mitzva or even to try to come up with some sort of logical reason for a mitzva. Though, we must acknowledge that our thoughts might not be the correct reason. However, we are not permitted to say that this Mitzva does not make sense, because it really does make sense. However, it is beyond our human minds and limited capabilities to understand what G-d intended with this Mitzva. We do the Chukim simply because G-d commanded us to do them. He is in charge. We are His servants and we simply can’t understand everything.

It is comparable to a principal making certain rules for a school. The students might complain and say, “Why do we have to do this? Why is this not allowed?” Well, the principal knows the reasons for his rules and it is beyond the comprehension of the students. That doesn’t mean that the students can violate a rule just because they don’t understand it. The same is true for Chukim.

I believe that Rashi is teaching us that the idea of Chukim is to teach us that we must live with faith in G-d. He knows what He is doing, even though we don’t. We must do what G-d asks of us and not think that we can outsmart Him. Many times events occur that we simply can’t understand. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria – the Ari Hakadosh – passed away at the age of 38 during a plague in Tzfat in 1572. Yet, Yassir Arafat was a murderer who lived for quite a while.

The Mufti of Jerusalem- who organized several pogroms against the Jews in the first half of the 20th century  in then Palestine and sat with Hitler in Berlin during WWII – lived to about 100. Many ballplayers, who are not the symbol of morality or role models, live a wealthy life, while many great Torah scholars struggle, especially in Israel. Why is this? It is beyond us.

Our task is to simply recognize that G-d has the ultimate wisdom and sees long term. If King Solomon, the wisest of all men, could not understand the Para Aduma, there is not much hope for us to understand it. We just have to do what G-d commands us, and He will take care of the rest.