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Posted on July 11, 2019 (5779) By Rabbi Label Lam | Series: | Level:

And HASHEM spoke to Moshe and Aaron, saying: This is the statute (CHOK) of the Torah which HASHEM commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the Children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.’” (Bamidbar 19:1-2)

This is the statute (CHOK) of the Torah: Because Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel, saying, “What is this Commandment, and what purpose does it have?” Therefore, the Torah uses the term “statute.” I have decreed it! You have no right to challenge it! — [Yoma 67b] – Rashi

A CHOK by definition has no apparent rational basis by which one can agree or disagree with it. The bottom line is that it is a Commandment by HASHEM. That alone is sufficient grounds for obedience. It seems though, that according to Rashi, the Torah adjusted its language here only so the nations of the world and the opposing forces cannot ridicule this commandment, of the Par Aduma with any legitimacy. Even though it can’t be understood according to the cognitive faculties of the outside observer it does possess deep deposits of spiritual vitamins that are beyond our ken. Does that mean that a CHOK cannot be understood at all? Ever?! No! That’s not what a CHOK means at all! Actually a CHOK can be understood! How so?

A story is told about an elder Rebbe and his son who were working hard to break through the thick ice on a frozen lake so they could use the frigid waters below as a Mikvah and gain some extra holiness. The young son broke through first and he jumped into the freezing cold waters shouting, “Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!” When he exited and was now standing on the surface of the ice with icicles in his black beard, he began to exclaim, “OOOOOOH, AHHHHH!” with pure delight and relief.

The elder Rebbe, his father, realized that this is a teachable moment, so he told his son, “This is how it goes with Mitzvos! They start out OUCH! OUCH! OUCH! And end up OOOOOOOH, AHHHHHH! However, with Aveiros, it’s just the opposite. They start out, OOOOOOOOH, AHHHHHHH, and end up OUCH! OUCH!”

The Sefas Emes explains that Mitzvos, even in the category of CHOK can be understood once they have been performed. Beforehand they are much less inviting to the external senses. It’s no mistake that the same Hebrew letters that spell the word MITZVOS, MEM –TZADI –VUV-SOF also spells out MATZOS!

Matzos are famous for their blandness and ultra-simplicity. They may not be a big sale item in any other market except by Jews who have acquired a profound appetite for their rich spiritual flavor.

Once they are consumed in the context of a Mitzvah that taste is known and understood. MATZOS spell MITZVOS! Once they are performed their taste is known and understood.

Just like when the Jewish Nation accepted the Torah and they declared, “NAASE v NISHMAH, We will do and we will hear!” They were committing to do and then to understand through the doing. The appetite for MITZVOS and even a CHOK is an acquired taste!

The second part of the Rebbe’s lesson is also calling out for an explanation. Many things look attractive and inviting to the eyes but they may be ultimately no good for the person. Eating a gallon of ice cream can make a big belly ache. That’s simple enough.

The first cigarette to the addicted smoker was filled with charm but later on when he realized the harm, it was too late. It starts out with a TAAM (Literally flavor, but figuratively reason) and ends up as a CHOK! Mitzvos, however start out with as a CHOK and end up with a TAAM.

The Mishne in Pirke Avos says it all, “The reward for a Mitzvah is a Mitzvah!” One basic approach is that there is a spiritual momentum with Mitzvos. One paves the way for another! The Nefesh HaChaim explains that the reward of the Mitzvah is actual Mitzvah itself. If I would be called to give Reb Chaim Kanievsky Shlita a ride home from the airport and he gave me $100 for the fare, the real reward is not in the monetary remuneration but in the sacred opportunity to serve greatness.