Judaism Parsha

Parshat Chukas – The Mystery of The Red Heifer and of Life

This week’s parasha is probably most well known for the enigma it presents:  the laws of the Parah Aduma, the red heifer.  This heifer is completely red and very, very rare.   It is sacrificed and then its ashes are used to purify those who have been made impure by being exposed to death.  The great mystery is that while the ashes purify those who were impure, it also renders impure the Kohen who purified them!  Unusual.  Paradoxical.  And no one understands why it works like that, defying logic.  No one, not Moshe Rabeinu and not Shlomo Hamelech, the most intelligent man who ever lived.  And our literature is replete with explanations and thoughts about how it is that sometimes we don’t need to know the reason for every mitzva.  We can’t always have an explanation nor should we expect it.  That is why it is called a chok,  the type of commandment that we must do regardless of its mysterious nature.  Just because God said so.  

     And I can’t help but feel the similarity between that type of Mitzva and life itself.  The idea just mirrors life perfectly!  Life certainly is a mystery and if we are lucky, a great adventure.  It is also so incredibly confounding and perplexing, so ambiguous  and sometimes downright inconceivable!!   I mean it starts out ok but then somewhere along the line, it becomes frustrating, disconcerting and just plain defeating.  And we often think that if only we were at the helm, if we could only run it our way, well, then things would make sense, of course.  We, the human race, with our tiny brains and very, very limited scope have long agendas and short patience thresholds.  What I mean is that we fixate on the things that we are absolutely sure we need NOW, without giving any thought to the other billions of people who share this planet with us,  Those things that hold the keys to our happiness, the  magical things that would turn our lives from drudgery and boredom into the paradise of a rose garden.  We each have our own list.  For some it is to get married, for others it is to have children, or fo their children to behave, or to get a degree.  To get this job or that boy or to change jobs, have our children grow up and get a life, so we can get one of our own.  Whatever it is, we KNOW we can’t be happy until that thing happens.  Of course we do.  But God just doesn’t seem to have received the memo. He just doesn’t understand!!!!  He keeps on getting mixed up.  When will He ever get it straight?  We see so many other people leading our dream lives (and even complaining about it!!), He delivered it to the wrong address.  

And then with just one word, God allows for the possibility that just maybe we don’t know, He allows for a margin of possibility.  Maybe things can look upside down and inside out and still be right.  Life goes from looking like a straight path in a botanic garden to looking like a maze in a jungle, with lions and monkeys thrown in for good measure!!!  But there is a plan.  A GPS – God’s Perfect System (Rabbi Jonathan Rietti).  Master Plan and Master Planner are the operative words.  My dear friends have been trying to teach me a new word in Spanish, “ubicate,” which means: know your place.  In the large, enormous scheme of things, know your place. And stay put.  He runs the world. And everyone gets what he needs (and not necessarily what he wants) in His own good time!!!  Count on it!!

One word:  Chukat- and a world of understanding.

The Magid of Dubno gives an amazing parable about this  pasuk: “This is the law (chok) of  the Torah which God commanded saying…”  He says it is like a very simple man who for some very lucky reason managed to convince the rabbi of his city to marry his son to his daughter.  They were to become mechutanim!!  Mazal Tov!  After the wedding, this gentleman notices that his mechutan, the rabbi is being distant.  He barely speaks to him, shows him no attention and this simple man becomes concerned.  So he asks the rabbi what happened?  Why is he being so distant and anti social?  Well, the rabbi told him that the better question would be why did he agree for his daughter to marry his son in the first place.  His current behavior is not as unusual as his having chosen to become affiliated by marriage to begin with!  That is more surprising!  It’s only a parable, don’t worry.  But the moral of the story is a powerful one.  We choose to question how God dares keep His reasons hidden from us. Why He behaves so seemingly arbitrarily and randomly. Why does He behave that way?  The greater question though is how does God stand us at all?? How did He, the great, illustrious, eminent Creator of all the universe, choose us, puny, tiny us, to be His precious nation?  Good question.  Really good question.  Know your place…

All the very best, dear friends,


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About the author

Debby Levy

Debby Levy is a mother and grandmother living in Jerusalem. She salutes the women of today for their juggling abilities and their fortitude. She has hte privilege and the pleasure to share their journey through her teaching and writing. And most especially watching G-d's Perfect System (GPS) unfold through the beauty and wonder of the weekly parasha.

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