Torah Tidbits

23 August 2014 / 27 Av 5774
Issue 1048
Shabbat Parshat Chukat
June 13, 2013

Lead Tidbit


The sedra announces and describes PARA ADUMA as the quintessential CHOK, with the words ZOT CHUKAT HATORAH. THIS is the CHOK of the Torah. Rashi’s famous comment, based on the Midrash - because the Satan and the nations of the world ridicule us by saying, ‘what is this mitzva (of the Red Heifer) and what reason is there for it?’ therefore the Torah introduces this mitzva with ZOT CHUKAT HATORAH, (so that we can hold our heads up high and say) This is a decree to us is from G-d and we have no permission (or need) to question Him on it. We do His bidding because He asks us to. That is all the reason we need.
There are many CHUKIM in the Torah, but Para Aduma has always been the epitome of CHUKIM - no doubt because of the Zot Chukat HaTorah introduction. Shlomo HaMelech’s declaration that he did not understand Para Aduma even with all the wisdom that G-d had given him, adds to the title of Alltime most enigmatic Chok.
And Para Aduma definitely lives up to its reputation, despite all that is written about it by Mitzva commentators.
But a computer search of the Chumash for the phrase ZOT CHUKAT HATORAH comes up with one other ‘hit’. The only other time we find that phrase is in Parshat Matot, in the aftermath of the successful war against Midyan. Besides Moshe Rabeinu castigating the returning soldiers from the battle for allowing the women of Midyan to live, there was another issue that had to be handled.
Elazar HaKohen spoke to the returning soldiers and said to them - ZOT CHUKAT HATORAH… and proceeds to instruct them on the laws of ‘kashering of keilim’. He describes vessels of different metals - gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, lead… and delineates the different levels of kashering required depending upon how the vessels were used for preparing non-kosher food. If we think about this particular mitzva, it is a little surprising that it should be described as ZOT CHUKAT HATORAH. It seems to us reasonable and logical that there are vessels that are made of some materials that cannot be purged. Others that can, but it would depend upon how the vessel was previously used. Etc.
Without belaboring the point, if we were asked to guess what other mitzva besides Para Aduma is labeled CHUKAT HATORAH, we might have said Shaatnez or Meat- in-Milk, or T’filin… or many others that would come before Kashering Vessels.
Without taking anything away from Para Aduma, we might suggest that the specific mitzva that shares the title of CHUKAT HATORAH with it teaches us a very important lesson.
Every mitzva - the enigmatic ones, the ones that defy logic… and the common sense, logical, reasonable mitzvot as well - the ones we could have figured out without even being commanded… all mitzvot have an element of CHUKAT HATORAH.
What does this mean? Partly, that the reason we do any mitzva - or the primary reason we do mitzvot that we understand - is the they are all G’ZEIRAT HAMELECH, decrees of the King. We need to try to understand them all, but we need to be committed to them whether of not we do.

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