Points to Ponder

Chukas 5775

This is the Chok of the Torah (19:2) – Technically, the term should be Zos Chukas HaParah – it is not the Chukah of the Torah? Rav Dovid of Leilov ztl. points out that Torah and the Parah Adumah share a similar concept – that in the same way that the Parah is Mitaher Temeim but also Mitamei Tehorim so too, Torah has that power. The Talmud (Yoma 72b) explains that when he is Zocheh it becomes a source for life but when not Zocheh so the Torah can be a poison.

He has defiled my mikdash (19:13) – The Torah twice mentions the punishment of Kares associated with he who enters the Mikdash Tamai. Why is the punishment so severe? Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ztl. explains that there are 2 types of aveiros. The first is a sin whose action is in of itself a repugnant action. The second when the Torah outlaws an act not because the act itself is a terrible one, but because its ramifications are so severe. It is to this latter category of sins which entering the Temple in an unclean state belongs. Although the Torah certainly considered the entrance itself as taboo, probably serious enough to deserve lashings, the severity of the act, as expressed by the punishment of excision (karet), is tied with the resulting defilement of the Temple. While in a strictly formal, halakhic sense, the air of the Temple can not acquire ritual impurity, nonetheless the entrance of an unclean person into the Temple "defiles the tabernacle." Thus, the Torah does not focus on the severity of the act itself, but rather on the metaphysical blemish it leaves on the Temple. A person must know that his actions, for good and bad, leave their mark. We need not necessarily understand that our actions have physiological consequences, but rather that on some metaphysical level, our deeds can either bolster the world we try and build for ourselves, or, God forbid, destroy it.

Since you didn’t have faith in me to sanctify my name (20:12) – Rashi explains that they were supposed to speak to the rock and they struck it instead. In the Talmud (Sanhedrin 101b) Rashi explains that the sin was that he referred to Bnei Yisrael as rebellious. Which one is correct? The Tzitz Eliezer ztl. explains that initially, the people were on a high madreiga and would have merited having a super miracle of seeing water come simply by speaking to it. But after the people challenged Moshe and he responded to them – they were no longer worthy of that miracle. What caused their fall? The call from Moshe which called them rebellious. Hence – the two Rashis are consistent.

The nation spoke ill with Hashem and with Moshe saying why did you take us out of Mitzrayim  (21:5) – Rashi comments that Moshe told the Jews that they were Kefuiyei Tova sons of Kefuyeii Tova. Why does Moshe speak badly about the 2 generations of Yisrael? Rav Nachum Parsovitz ztl. understands that Moshe was actually being Milamed Zechus – noting that it was to be expected for them to be Kefuyei Tova. The same is noted by the Rav of Novorhodok Rabbi Meir Abovitz ztl. who says that the reason we say Aval Anachnu VaAvoseinu Chatanu is to justify why we sin and perhaps use it to lighten the claims against us.

Es VaHeiv B’Sufo (21:14) – The simple understanding of the possukim is that this refers to the wars of Torah. Rav Schachter Shlita offered an additional level of interpretation based on the Chazal that the beginning of Torah study requires a little Chutzpah as long as it is VaHeiv B’Sufo – that at the end they will come to love one another.  

From the Midbar it went to  Matana (21:18) – Chazal (Nedarim 55a) interpret this part of the Possuk as referring to the fact that when one makes himself accessible as a Midbar, Torah is given to him as a gift. Rashi adds that making oneself like a Midbar refers to the one who teaches Torah to everyone for free. However,  why is one who teaches everyone compared to Hefker? Rav Aharon Kotler ztl. explains that Torah belongs to the Jewish people as a whole. No one owns it singularly or possessively. When one makes himself available to teach and learn Torah with the masses selflessly – affording the Torah to be accessible to all of her owners – such a person receives the Torah as a Matana for he has learned the secrets of True Torah possession.

For a Fire came from Cheshbon (21:28) – The Alter of Slobodka ztl. noted that the Cheshbon of learning Torah without interruption it adds to a Cheshbon – to a calculation of power. On the other hand, when we sin, we waste Torah and for that too, there will be a tremendous Cheshbon.

Haftorah – Yiftach sent messengers to the king of Amon noting that the king did not believe the Jews to allow them passage in his land (Shoftim 11:20) - It should be noted that in the Torah’s account the word “Nasan” or give replaced the word Ha’Emin. Why does Yiftach change the story? Rav Chaim Zeitchik ztl. explains that to a non-Jew it was impossible to believe that a person would do that which he says without deviating one iota. The Talmud (Bechoros 13b) notes that non-Jews generally are suspicious of Jewish Torah observance in that they do not believe that we can follow through on the words of the Torah. However the Jewish way is to say what we mean and to follow it 100% without deviation.