The Mystery Mitzvah

Parshas Chukas #3

The Mystery Mitzvah

HaShem continued his instructions, “Once a completely red perfect cow is found, slaughter it and burn it. Mix the ashes with spring water. A pure (Tahor) person shall then sprinkle the ash-water on the impure (Tamei) person.”

What happened next may come to you as a huge surprise!

The person who was Tamei became Tahor, and the person who was Tahor became Tamei!

So that’s the Parah Adumah Mystery – the very same ashes would change someone from impure to pure, and from pure to impure!

“What?! Huh?! How?! Why?!” you may (and should) wonder.

Indeed, many great thinkers, the most famous of them being the wisest of all men, King Shlomo, wondered the same thing. In his book of Koheles (7:23), King Shlomo admitted, “Amarti Achakma V’hee Rechokah Mimeni” (“I said I would acquire wisdom, but it is far from me). The Midrash tells us that he tried his best to understand the Mitzvah of Parah Adumah, but did not succeed – the solution was “far from him.”

In fact, says the great Torah scholar, Rabbeinu Bachya of Spain (1255-1340), add up the the letter-value of the Hebrew words והיא רחוקה (V’hee Rechokah – and it is far) and it comes out exactly the same as פרה אדומה (Parah Adumah) – 341!

Shazak insight

Chukim Mitzvos – The King’s Decrees

There are 613 Mitzvos in the Torah. Some of them are so logical – they make so much sense – that even without HaShem commanding us, we would do them anyway. Some examples are not to steal or murder, honoring parents, and giving charity. These Mitzvos are called Mishpatim meaning “judgements” – we could probably figure them out using our own good judgement.

Yet, there is another category called Chukim, “decrees.” These are Mitzvos, such as the Parah Adumah, that nobody would ever have thought to do. Even after HaShem commands us, it’s hard to understand the true reason.

Indeed, Chukim may be the hardest Mitzvos to keep. The non-Jews may laugh at them. The Yetzer HaRa tells us they make no sense. So HaShem tells us that they are no less important than the ones that are easy to understand. After all, every Mitzvah is from HaShem, and we trust and believe that He knows what is best for us.

So are Chukim Mitzvos, such as the Parah Adumah, “second rate” Mitzvos?

Absolutely not! The Torah calls Parah Adumah – Chukas HaTorah – as if to say it’s the law of the entire Torah (I) – a law so very unusual, beyond the understanding of mortal man, that it had to be given by the One and Only HaShem. And once we accept that, it’s a lot easier to fulfill all 613 Mitzvos of the Torah, whether they are Chukim or Mishpatim Mitzvos. After all, every Mitzvah comes from Hashem.

Shazak insight

The Rambam’s Quest – Unravel the Mystery!

If Chukim are HaShem’s decrees, not to be understood, would it be proper to try to figure out the reasons behind these Mitzvos?

According to most Rabbis, the most famous one being the Rambam, the answer is, basically, YES! We should all follow in the footsteps of King Shlomo and try to figure out the reasons for Chukim.

But even if you spend a long time trying to figure out a Chok (singular of Chukim), and you think you succeeded, there are two very important points to always remember:

  1. Regardless of how great, how holy and how smart a person is, one must always remember that we are only human, and our Chukim reasons may be incorrect.
  2. Absolutely nobody is allowed to change a Chok Mitzvah based on our “man-made” reasons. For example, Kosher… it’s a Chok. Some Rabbis say that one of the reasons for keeping Kosher is because it’s hygienic, meaning it’s a lot cleaner and healthier. (For more details, rewind to Parshas Shemini, or fast forward to Parshas Re’eh.)

So what would happen if, using the most modern methods, we make sure that the non-kosher animal is super clean? Would it then be Kosher?

Of course not!

Without the Kosher signs, a pig, a camel, a rabbit can never be Kosher! After all, it’s a Chok!

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