Torah Thoughts

Parashat Chukat contains several memorable stories and rules: 

– The law of the Red Heifer, whose ashes are used to purify those defiled by death to enable them to enter the Temple or the Mishkan.  This is generally given as the classic example of a “chok”, a rule for which no rational reason is given.

– The story of snakes infesting the camps and biting the Jews.  Moses asks God for help, and God instructs Moses to make a snake  (“nachash”) and put it on a pole.  God does not instruct Moses as to the material to use, and he makes it out of copper (“nechoshet”).  By looking up at the copper snake, the people bitten live.  A strange story often interpreted as getting the Jews to “look up” and remember that all things come from God.

– Miriam and Aaron die, and the water dries up.  The Jews are thirsty, and God tells Moses to ask the rock for water.  But, rather than ask, Moses yells at the Jews, and hits the rock twice.  God then tells Moses he will not enter Israel.

Each one of these could be discussed by learned people for weeks, but we will try to touch on each as we can.  The Rabbis are most interested in Moses hitting the rock.  Did he lose his temper?  Was it really a punishment or was Moses just not the person to lead the Jews in starting a new life in Israel?  How did the death of his older siblings affect Moses?  And what are we to learn, and implement into our own lives, from each of these lessons?  So much to explore…