Parashat Chukat

I Wish I’d Come Here Before

It says in this week parsha“Moshe stripped Aaron’s garments from him and dressed Elazar his (Aaron’s) son in them; then Aaron died there on Mount Hor…” (20:28)

Once there was a secular Jewish family who sent their son to Israel for the summer to study farming on a left-wing kibbutz.

At the end of his expected stay, the son phoned home to say that he wasn’t coming back; he had decided to become religious and go to Yeshiva. The parents were heart-broken, but what could they do?

The following year they sent their daughter to study Arabic at the Hebrew University. At the end of the semester, the parents received a long and very apologetic email from their daughter explaining that she had been spending Shabbat with a religious family and had decided to stay on in Israel and become religious.

The mother and father were beside themselves. They decided to seek the help of their local, and not Orthodox, rabbi.

After hearing their tale of woe, he thought for a while and said, “When was the last time you checked your mezuzot?”

It’s difficult to describe to someone who isn’t religious what keeping the Torah feels like. And why it is so compelling.

A friend of mine described waking up on Sunday morning after his first full-fledged Shabbat. “I thought it was Monday morning. It was a kind of out-of body-experience.”

The Midrash in this week’s Torah portion describes the passing of Aaron from this world:

Moshe and Aaron and Elazar ascended Mount Hor. Then G-d descended and took Aaron’s soul with a kiss, as it says that Aaron died, “according to the ‘Mouth’ of G-d.”

Moshe and Elazar both kissed Aaron, each on one cheek.

Moshe said to Aaron, “What do you see?”

He said, “I don’t see anything except for the Cloud of Glory clothing the limbs that you are disrobing.”

They undressed Aaron until his thighs, and the Cloud of Glory moved up and covered him.

Then they disrobed him until his neck.

Moshe said, “Aaron, my brother. What do you see? What is death?”

He replied, “Until now, nothing except that the Cloud of Glory is coming up to my neck.”

When they had completely removed his garments, the Cloud of Glory covered Aaron completely.

Moshe called to him, “Aaron, my brother, what is the death of the righteous? Where are you?”

He replied, “I am not worthy to tell you, but I wish I had come here before.”

When someone becomes religious, his non-religious friends are often curious to find out, “What’s it like to be frum?”

The only answer he can give is, “I can’t describe it you, but one thing I can tell you is that I wish I’d come here before.”

Source: By Rabbi Asher Sinclair  based on an idea by Rabbi Shimshon Pincus

 I sat down at my desk to write commentary on this week’s parsha.  After reading the article above a few times I had Tears coming from my eyes. I became emotional thinking about how good the next world (olam haba) is.

Aaron Akohen said “I Wish I’d Come Here Before “

Don’t let moments go by because every Mitzvah and every kind deed, is a guarantee for a better after life to come.

Rabbi Moshe Nourollah 

simcha corner

For this week’s joke please read the front page article.

There you will find an amazing truth and at the same time a funny joke too.

Please concentrate on the facts of the article.

facts of life: take this serious

Essential Vitamins

Parshat Chukat speaks about the Para Aduma, the Red Heifer used in the times of the Holy Temple. The ashes of the Red Heifer represented the ultimate paradox – the ashes purified someone who was impure, but the ashes had the exact opposite effect as well: If someone was ritually pure, the ashes would make him impure.

King Solomon said that he was able to understand the logic behind all the Torah’s commands – except for this one. So from here Solomon deduced: While we can try to understand the reasons for the Mitzvah, the bottom line is we do them “because God said so.”

If that’s true, we might ask, why do so many of the Mitzvot have an observable benefit – for instance, the weekly recharge that Shabbat provides, or the lessons of discipline we gain from keeping kosher?

Actually, we could ask the same question about our physical health: For example, it is understandable that our bodies require Vitamin C, but why did God put Vitamin C into delicious oranges? Why didn’t God simply make Vitamin C pills, or put all the essential vitamins into something bland like oatmeal?!

The answer is that God created us with a drive for meaning and satisfaction. So while Vitamin C is an essential requirement, God wanted to give it to us in the most pleasurable form possible. The orange flavor is a great reason to eat oranges – but not the real reason!

So too with our spiritual health: Although we enjoy the practical benefits of Mitzvot, the real reason we observe them is “because God said so.” In doing so this raises our relationship with God to a much higher level of love and commitment. And ultimately, that is the best reason there could be.

By Rabbi Shraga Simmons

something to think about

Priceless Gold Reduced To Ashes

“Someone shall burn the cow before his eyes‭, ‬its hide‭, ‬and its flesh‭, ‬and its blood‭; ‬with its dung‭, ‬shall he burn‭.‬”‭ (‬Bamidbar 19:5‭)‬

A woman was a servant in the king’s palace.  One day, the woman’s toddler was playing in the palace, when he soiled the pristine, polished floor.  The king saw the foul sight and immediately demanded that the child’s mother — and no one else — come clean up the mess.  Similarly, after the sin of the Golden Calf, G-d spoke to Moshe and Aaron, commanding the Jewish people to observe the mitzvah of the Red Heifer sacrifice with the intent that it should serve to “clean up” the sin of the Golden Calf.

Rashi develops many parallels between the Ref Heifer (the ashes of which were used to purify the impure) and the Golden Calf.  Just as the Golden Calf was fashioned by fire, the body of the Red Heifer was to be consumed by fire.  Rabbi Goldwasser points out an interesting contrast between these two cows.  The making of the Golden Calf involved a transformation from an inanimate object (gold) into something that became alive, through fire.  On the other hand, the ashes that were needed to carry out the Red Heifer sacrifice came about in a reverse process: something alive would, through fire, become inanimate (ashes).  Rabbi Yaakov Yisroel Bifus comments (Lekach Tov) that one can see that the power of fire (and other elements of nature such as water, wind, and earth) can be used to build the world or destroy it.

On a deeper level, the relationship between the Red Heifer and the Golden Calf teaches us that what may first appear to be act of destruction may really be an act of creation.  In the case of the burning of the Red Heifer, an opportunity is created — the opportunity to reclaim purity.  Similarly, what might appear on the surface to be an act of creation may, in fact, be destruction, such as the almost irreversible damage that ensued because of the Golden Calf.

Immediately before the outbreak of the Second World War, a yeshiva student took a long walk in the forest.  Unbeknownst to him, he crossed over the Russian border.  He was arrested, charged with treason, and incarcerated for five long years.  Denied contact with his family and friends, he paced his prison cell, questioning what he could have done to deserve all his anguish and suffering.  Upon his release after the war, he made his way back to the yeshivah and discovered that all of the other students, as well as the rabbis, had been shot, leaving him the only survivor.  Being arrested and put in prison, accused of a crime he was not guilty of, was in reality an act that saved him from certain death.

World events and even small events in our lives that appear devastating may, in fact, be the preliminary stages for creating new opportunities.


Parsha Summary 

First aliya: he most severe of all ritual impurities is tum’at met, the impurity contracted through contact with a human corpse. This section details the purification process for an individual or object which has contracted this form of impurity. A red heifer is slaughtered and is burned together with a few added ingredients. Water from a stream is added to the ashes. On the third and seventh day after contracting tum’at met, this mixture is sprinkled upon the individual or object. After immersion in a mikvah (ritual pool), the person or object is freed of this impurity.

Second Aliyah: The abovementioned purification process is continued, along with an admonition that the impure individual not enter the Tabernacle or Temple until the purification process is completed. Miriam dies in the fortieth year of the Israelites’ sojourn in the desert. With Miriam’s death, the waters which flowed from the miraculous “Well of Miriam” dried up. The people complain bitterly about the lack of water.

Third Aliyah: G‑d tells Moshe and Aaron to take a staff and gather the people in front of a certain rock. They should speak to the rock, and it will give forth water. Moshe and Aaron gather everybody, and Moshe strikes the rock and it gives forth water. In the course of this episode they committed a grave error, the conventional explanation being that they struck the rock instead of speaking to it. This caused G‑d to punish Moshe and Aaron, barring them from leading the Jews into Israel.

Fourth Aliyah: Moshe sends messengers to the King of Edom requesting permission to pass through his land (which is south of Canaan) on the way to the Promised Land. Despite Moshe’ promises not to cause any harm to the land whilst passing, Edom refuses the Jews passage. The Jews are therefore forced to avoid the land of Edom, and approach Canaan from the east.

Fifth Aliyah: The Jews arrive at Mount Hor. At G‑d’s command, Moshe, Aaron and Aaron’s son, Elazar, go up the mountain. Aaron removes his high priest’s vestments and Elazar dons them. Aaron then passes away. The entire nation mourns Aaron’s death for thirty days. The Amalekites, disguised as Canaanites, attack the Jews. The Jews pray to G‑d and are victorious in battle. The Jews complain about their food, claiming that they are “disgusted” by the manna. G‑d dispatches serpents into the Israelite encampment, and many Jews die. Moshe prays to G‑d on the Jews’ behalf. Following G‑d’s instructions, Moshe fashions a copper serpent and places it atop a pole. The bitten Jews would look at this snake and be healed.

Sixth Aliyah: The Jews journey on, making their way towards the eastern bank of the Jordan River. Encrypted in this section is a great miracle which occurred when the Jews passed through the Arnon valley. Tall cliffs rose from both sides of this narrow valley, and in the clefts of these cliffs the Emorites, armed with arrows and rocks, were waiting to ambush the Jews. Miraculously, the mountains moved towards each other, crushing the Emorite guerrilla forces. This section ends with a song of praise for the well which sustained the Jews throughout their desert stay — and whose now-bloodied waters made the Jews aware of the great miracle which G‑d wrought on their behalf.

Seventh Aliyah: The Jews approach the land of the Emorites, which lies on the east bank of the Jordan River. They send a message to Sichon, king of the Emorites, asking permission to pass through his land en route to Canaan. Sichon refuses and instead masses his armies and attack the Jews. The Jews are victorious and occupy the Emorite lands. Og, king of Bashan, then attacks the Jews. The Jews are triumphant again; they kill Og and occupy his land too. Now the Jewish nation has reached the bank of the Jordan River, just across from the city of Jericho in the land of Israel.