By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
This week we read the parsha of Chukas. "Zos chukas haTorah asher tzivah
Hashem (this is the 'chok' of the Torah that Hashem has commanded) [19:2]."
The Torah is filled with many different types of commandments. There are
those that make sense to us and those which do not. The understanding of the
'chukim' is beyond us. Our parsha begins with the laws of the para adumah --
the red heifer that purified those who had become ritually impure by coming
in contact with a corpse.
Why didn't the parsha begin by stating that this is the 'chok' of the para-
adumah or that this is the 'chok' of taharah (ritual purity) or tum'ah
(ritual impurity)? Why was this 'chok' labeled as the 'chok' of the entire
We've discussed previously that tum'ah comes to fill the void created by an
absence of kedusha (holiness). A person's kedusha comes as a result of
becoming a 'G-dly' person. How does one go about doing that? Only through
connecting to Hashem through his Torah. Without that, anyone's guess is as
good as anyone else's. No one has the moral high ground to declare what is
morally correct or incorrect. The 'Toras Chaim' -- the instructions for life
-- that Hashem gave us in the guise of the Torah is the only source of what
is intrinsically good and intrinsically evil. Through that, one can become a
'G-dly' person. Through that one can attain a level of kedusha. Only through
that kedusha did the entity of tum'ah (ritual impurity) come about.
The Ohr HaChaim explains that this is why the parsha began "Zos chukas
haTorah" (this is the 'chok' of the Torah) as opposed to "this is the 'chok'
of tum'ah". The Torah, with the opportunity it affords a person to ascend to
dizzying spiritual heights, created that eventuality of tum'ah at the time
of a person's death -- the time when that opportunity is no longer
available. "Zos chukas haTorah" is therefore the proper introduction to the
laws of the para adumah -- the procedure of purifying oneself from the
tum'ah of coming in contact with a corpse.
The Ohr HaChaim also offers a different interpretation. "Zos chukas
haTorah!" If a person adheres to this mitzva (commandment), the Torah
equates that to adherence to all of the mitzvos. Keeping the 'chok' reveals
a trusting decision to keep the laws of Hashem taught throughout the entire
Torah. Not only the ones that make sense to us.
A 'chok' demonstrates the realization that I can't understand everything.
The realization that our finite minds cannot come close to fathoming the
depths of our Creator's understanding. We all realize that a three year old
child can't possibly understand all of the calculations that go into a
directive given to them by a mature adult. We must also realize that the
gulf between the understanding of a three year old compared to that of an
adult is infinitesimal compared to the gulf between our understanding and
the understanding of Hashem. "Zos chukas haTorah" --this is the litmus test
for the entire Torah.
As we mentioned above, the Torah is called 'Toras Chaim' -- instructions for
life. The idea is for a person to take these Torah concepts and apply them
to everyday life. A 'chok' teaches us that we don't truly understand any of
the mitzvos. Even those such as: don't steal, don't murder, that we think we
understand, in fact we only have a minute and shallow understanding of what
the Creator actually had in 'mind'.
That concept must then be applied to our everyday happenings, even those
removed from the realm of mitzva observance. To have the understanding that
if I'm stuck in traffic and therefore late for an appointment, I'm exactly
where Hashem wants me to be. Even if it doesn't make sense to me and I think
I'd have been much better off arriving on time to my job interview. "Zos
chukas haTorah" -- accepting that life's happenings aren't haphazard.
Everything is with a plan from above. It's better to miss that interview if
the hashgacha pratis (Divine providence) has arranged things in such a way.
This also applies to the more harsh realities of life...
This past week was the yahrtzeit (a yearly observance of the Hebrew date of
a person's death) of my sister, Devorah Pesel bas Asher Chaim, a"h. Living
in Israel, I usually don't get to visit the cemetery on her yahrtzeit. This
year, having been visiting the States I was able to. The pain of a sister
leaving this world at the age of twelve isn't erased even after twenty five
years. One always thinks of the different, meaningful stages of life that
were never reached and the relationship that didn't develop...
We are so 'locked up' in this world that it is extremely hard to see past
it. Marriage, parenting, relationships seem so crucially important to us.
It's hard to accept a life that didn't have them. But our vision, as a
result of being so 'locked in', is very skewed.
Imagine a person who took a child to a playground. The child had a pleasant
time going on the swings, the monkey-bars and the carousel but missed out on
the see-saw. Imagine that person having a burning anger that the child
missed out on the see-saw. That would clearly be a case of overreacting. It
would have been nice if the child would have had a chance to go on the
see-saw, but in the overall scheme of life, it's really not all that
Many of the aspects of life that we see as being so essential, are nothing
more than a ride on the see-saw in the overall scheme of eternity. Each
person experiences those aspects of life which are needed to contribute to
their eternity. Any stage that a person didn't reach would have been as
unessential and extraneous as that ride on the see-saw.
"Zos chukas haTorah." It's not simply a mitzva. It's a way of life. It's a
key to happiness -- to dealing with and understanding the world. Without it,
the world is a jungle. With it, a perfectly synchronized orchestra. "Zos
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in
Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).