Parshas Chukas deals with mysteries.
The Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) is the epitome of the esoteric decrees of the Torah. It concerns the intangible concepts of spiritual ‘purity’ and ‘impurity’; deals with the enigmatic subjects of life and death; works inexplicably and in contradictory ways. The Parah procedure atones for the Golden Calf -- but was first taught before the entire episode of the Calf! In addition, the heifer is burned outside of the camp, normally something forbidden in a sacrificial-type offering.
Rashi says that the nations taunt us for rulings such as the Parah Adumah. We suggest that, in reality, the Torah is taunting us, as if to say: “You, who are always seeking rational explanations, try to explain this! Don’t bend the Torah to your mind, bend your mind to the Torah.” Bend your mind to the Torah, and you will find the greatest mysteries of life and death, expounded in clear terms.
The Flah compared the Torah to a work of solid gold, covered with tin; the tin covering has small holes. The wise person examines the tin, notices the holes, and discovers the gold shining beneath. The fool sees only the superficial tin covering, and rejects the work as a worthless piece of material. So, too, the Torah looks like tin; examine it very closely, and you will find solid gold shining through the holes... The fool, however, does not take the time to examine the ‘tin’; he doesn’t notice the holes... It is only through questioning the ‘Chukim’ -- the mysterious decrees -- that we come to glimpse the real meanings of the ‘Mishpatim’ -- the civil laws of the Torah. (Sefer Panim Yafos, Parshas Bo)
There are many explanations of the Parah Adumah; each perplexing issue has solutions, to a degree. What makes it ‘Chukas Hatorah’ -- the model of the obscure decree? The entire subject could not be deduced by human intellect, but can only be understood through Torah study and spiritual enlightenment. Bend your mind to the Torah.
Shem Mishmuel found the connection between this week’s parsha and last week’s, Korach.
Moshe, as we know, is praised for his great humility. Now, you may find humble people for different reasons. One person is humble by nature, self-effacing rather than self-asserting. Another has an asserting, domineering personality, yet controls himself because of his submission to Hashem. The second individual, of course, is more praiseworthy.
Now look at Moshe. In his youth, he killed an Egyptian; he stopped two men who were fighting. Moshe had a fearless nature, seeking justice under any circumstance. Well, you might say, that was in his youth. The Torah only describes his humility at an advanced age, after he had wandered from place to place, and had faced many great troubles and problems. By then his nature may have changed to that of a humble and accepting person. For this reason -- so that we should not entertain this thinking -- the rebellion of Korach is discussed here. Moshe spoke harshly to Korach (“Tomorrow we will know!”); he was very angry with Doson and Aviram (“By this you will know that Hashem has sent me...”). Moshe maintained the same unyielding dedication to the very end. When Moshe is described as being the humblest of all men, we know that it was only due to his spiritual strengths, but not because of his good nature.
See the powers of Moshe: the humblest and the most fearless, he contains all good qualities, even if they be opposing ones. The physical body holds no restrictions on such an individual, but he is like a pure soul, even within the body. Now we can see why Moshe understood the Parah Adumah, although others could not. His mind was clear, unfettered by the body, like a pure soul. For others, however, as long as the soul is clothed within the body, the Parah Adumah will remain mysterious -- until the future time, when the secret of the Parah will be revealed to all.
The mystery of the Parah was revealed to Moshe after the argument of Korach. Only then were Moshe’s true powers revealed -- now it was clear that he was beyond normal personal limitations. (Shem Mishmuel, Bamidbar, pp. 307-308)
Last week, we discussed the difficult period commencing with the summer months of Tammuz and Av. The Shem Mishmuel describes the second quarter of the Jewish year. (Notice, by the way, that it is the only quarter that doesn’t have major holidays.)
The first quarter, containing Peach and Shavuos, represents the receiving of gifts from above. The second quarter represents the reverse -- humanity would arouse and elevate itself. It is a greater thing for the lowly world to raise itself, than for heavenly gifts to be bestowed downward; for that reason, these summer months actually have the potential of being the greatest of all. Unfortunately, it still has not come about; mankind has never succeeded in raising itself sufficiently. So it is not coincidence that the greatest troubles have occurred during this time, yet this period is destined to be the head of the holidays in the future era...
As mentioned last week, there is another combination of letters from Hashem’s name that corresponds to each month. The letters corresponding to Tammuz spell Hashem’s name in the reverse. This combination is found in the last letters of the words of Homan: “All this is worth nothing to me!” Shem Mishmuel says that this, indeed, was Homan’s true intention: Look at the deeds of the Jews; see that they have not acted properly. This will bring about their destruction!
The Jews, however, reversed their ways, and Purim became the day of reversals. Purim is, in reality, the anticipation of the holidays of the future era! (Shem Mishmuel, ibid. pp. 219-220.)
Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
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