Parashat Chukat

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[edit] The Red Haifer

Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aharon saying about the statute of the Red Haifer, a commandment with no obvious logic or purpose.[1] Although this can be mocked by the Satan and the nations of the world, it is a decree from Hashem and no one has the right to challenge it.[1] The Jews are take a perfectly red cow, lacking even two black hairs,[1] that is unblemished and upon which no yoke was laid and give it to Moshe. Therefore this first Red Haifer would always be referenced as 'the cow which Moses prepared in the desert'.[1]

[edit] The Burning

Moshe is to give it to Elazar the deputy kohen gadol,[2] who will take it outside all three camps[2] where it will be slaughtered by a non-kohen in his presence as he watches.[2] Elazar will take from its blood with his finger and sprinkle it toward the front of the Ohel Moed seven times. In later generations when this ritual is performed outside the Beis Hamikdash in Yerushalaim the kohen is to east of the city and direct his gaze toward the entrance to the Temple while sprinkling the blood.[3] The cow will then be burned in front of Elazar; including its hide, flesh, blood and dung. The kohen takes a piece of cedar wood, hyssop and crimson wool which he casts into the fire burning the cow.

Following the burning, the kohen must wash his garments, immerse in a mikva and wait until evening[4] before entering the camp of the Divine Presence. Even before this the kohen is allowed to enter the Levite Camp beforehand since only a Zav, Baal Keri and someone afflicted with Tzuras is banished from both camps.[4] Also the one who burns the cow must wash his clothes in water, immerse in a mikva and remains unclean until evening.

[edit] The Ashes

A ritually clean person shall gather the cow's ashes and place them outside the camp in clean places where it is to serve as a keepsake for the Jews and for sprinkling water[5] used for spiritual cleansing. These ashes are a holy object, just like a sin offering and it is forbidden to use them for personal benefit.[5] He divides the ashes into three parts;[5]

  1. One third was put on the Mount of Olives and was set aside for the kohanim gedolim to sanctify themselves from it before prepering other red cows.[5]
  2. One third was divided among all the 'kohan watch groups' and was placed outside the Temple courtyard to be used by the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel who needed to purify themselves.[5]
  3. One third was placed in rampart surrounding the Bais Hamikdash for preservation and was never to be used but rather serve as a keepsake for the congregation of Yisrael.[5]

The one who gathers the cow's ashes must also wash his clothes and remains unclean until evening. The red heifer is to serve as an everlasting statute for the Jews and converts who reside in their midst.

[edit] Corpse Impurity

Anyone touching a human corpse, a quarter measurement of life blood,[6] a human bone, grave, top and side of a coffin[7] remains unclean for seven days. Touch is only necessary to induce impurity in an open field,[7] however one who enters a tent containing a corpse,[8] becomes impure with no touch. This does not apply to one who touches the corpse of an animal, who remains impure for only a day and does not require sprinkling.[6]

A corpse is the 'supreme source of contamination', a person that touches the corpse becomes a 'primary source of contamination'. If person who was defiled by a corpse,[9] touches any person or vessel, they become unclean and remain unclean until the evening.

[edit] Impure Vessels

Any open earthenware[10] vessel which has no seal fastened[10] around it that enters a tent containing a human corpse becomes unclean. Earthenware vessels exterior's do not accept contamination, only its interior's, therefore if there is a securely fastened seal around it, it remains clean but if it is not securly fastened, it becomes contaminated.[10]

[edit] Purification

Ashes are taken from the burnt cow and are placed in a vessel filled with spring water. On the third and seventh days, a person or vessel must be sprinkled with the ashes,[11] in order to become pure. A ritually clean person shall take a hyssop and dip it into the water and sprinkle it on the impure person, tent or vessels. On the seventh day after the second sprinkling, the cleansing process has ended[12] and the person who underwent the purification must then wash his cloths and immerse in the mikva, becoming ritually clean in the evening.

If a person is not sprinkled with the ash water on the third and seventh days, even if he immerses in a mikva,[6] he remains impure. If he then enters the Temple courtyard, even after immersion,[6] he has defiled it and his soul will be cut off from the congregation of Yisroel. This applies both to the Mishkan even though its holiness was not permanent and to the Bais Hamikdash even though it was not anointed with the anointing oil.[13]

Although the person who does the actual sprinkling remains ritually clean, the one who carries the purifying waters becomes defiled with a stringent uncleanness where even the clothes he is wearing are contaminated.[14] Anyone else who merely touches the sprinkling waters becomes unclean until evening, yet his cloths remain pure and he is not required to wash them.[14] The waters do not contaminate until there is an amount of water adequate for sprinkling.[14]

[edit] Rectification of Golden Calf

According the Aggada of Rabbi Moshe Hadarshan the Ritual of the red heifer served as a rectification for the sin of the golden calf and is filled with illusions regarding this.[9]

  • The Jews are to purchase the red cow from their own possessions; just as they removed their own golden earrings for the golden calf. Bringing this cow from their own possessions serves as an atonement.[9]
  • A cow atones for the calf, similar to mother maidservant who comes to clean up the mess that her son made in the king’s palace.[9]
  • The cow must be red alluding to sins which are described as being 'red' in the verse “if your sins prove to be as red as crimson dye”[15][9]
  • The cow must be unblemished to atone for the Jews who were once perfect but became blemished, allowing them to once again regain their perfection.[9]
  • No yoke could ever have been laid on the cow alluding to the Jews having cast off from themselves the yoke of Heaven.[9]
  • The cow had to be given to Elezar the Kohen just as they assembled against Ahron, who was a kohen, to make the calf. Although Aharon himself would have been more fitting for this analogy, he could not perform this service since a prosecutor can not serve as defense.[9]
  • The cow was burnt just as calf was burned.[9]
  • The piece of cedar wood, hyssop and crimson wool correspond to the three thousand men who fell because of the sin of the golden calf. The cedar is the highest of all trees, while the hyssop is the lowest. This symbolizes that the one of high standing who acts haughtily and sins should lower himself like a hyssop and a worm and will then gain atonement.[9]
  • Part of the ashes is to be preserved as a keepsake alluding to the transgression of the calf is preserved throughout the generations for retribution, for there is no punishment that does not contain a minor part of retribution for the sin of the calf.[9]
  • Just as the calf defiled all those who were involved in it, so too does the cow render unclean all those involved with it.[9]
  • Just like the Jews were cleansed when Moshe burnt the calf and made them drink its ashes, here also the unclean individual is cleansed through ashes.[9]

[edit] Passing of Miriam

The second generation of Jews who had survived death in the desert for of the sin of the spies,[16] arrived at the desert of Tzin in the first month, and the people settled in Kadesh. Miriam died there through a kiss from Hashem's mouth rather than by the angel of death, although this is not mentioned in the Torah out of respect.[16] Her death brought an atonement just like the sacrifice of the Red Cow since the death of the righteous secure atonement.[16]

[edit] Dry Well

All forty years the Well had been giving forth water in merit of Miriam.[17] After her passing the well dried up, the Jews had no water so they assembled against Moshe and Aharon. ALl the Jews aside from the Tribe of Levi[18] quarreled with Moshe, saying they wished[19] they would die a similar death[19] to that of their brothers who had died during the plague, since death from thirst is worse then death by plague.[19] They demanded to know why Moshe had brought them to the desert to die aloung with their livestock. Why had Moshe taken them out of Egypt to this evil place, for it is not a place for seeds, fig trees, grapevines, pomegranate trees and there is no water to drink.

[edit] Incident of the Rock

[edit] The Commandment

Moshe and Aharon moved away from the assembly to the entrance of the Ohel Moed, and they fell on their faces. Then the glory of Hashem appeared to them. Hashem told Moshe to take his staff and along with his brother Aharon he should assemble the congregation and speak to the rock in their presence so that it will give forth its water. This water is to be given to the congregation to drink along with their livestock since Hashem cares about the money of the Jews.[20]

[edit] The Assembly

Moshe took the staff from before the Hashem as He had commanded him. Moshe and Aharon assembled the congregation in front of the rock. Although the place was cramped, the entire Nation fit in this small location and this is one of the times in history where we find that a small area held a large number of people above the laws of nature.[21]. When the Well had dried up, the Rock had gone and settled among the other rocks, now they did not recognize it. The Jews questioned Moshe and Aharon what is the difference from what rock they draw water for them from. Moshe answered them inquiring how he could draw water from a rock which he had not been commanded to use.[21] He rebuked them calling them rebels, fools, obstinate ones, those who try to teach their teachers.[21]

[edit] Hitting the Rock

Moshe spoke to the rock but nothing came out since he had mistakenly spoken to the wrong rock.[22] They thought maybe they have to strike the rock just as they had origional when the Well was first created.[23] Moshe raised his hand and struck the rock with his staff, this time interacting with the correct rock. Only a few drops of water come out, since Hashem had commanded him to speak to it rather then strike it. Moshe then hit the rock a second time causing an abundance of water to gush forth, allowing the congregation and their livestock to drink.[22]

[edit] The Decree

Following this indecent Hashem informed Moshe and Aharon that since they did not have enough faith in Him to sanctify Him in the eyes of the Jews, they will not get to lead the Jews into Eretz Yisroel. For had they spoken to the rock and it had given forth water, Hashem would have been sanctified in the eyes of the Jews. They would have taken lesson from the rock which neither speaks nor hears and does not require sustenance, yet fulfills the word of Hashem, how much more so should they.[24] If it were not for this sin alone, they would have entered the Land for they were clean from the other sins of the Generation of the Desert that had caused them to all die and not enter.[24] In order to prevent prevent Moshe and Aharon from canceling the decree through lengthy prayer< Hashem hurried to swear by an oath that they would not enter the land.[24]

Although Moshe had displayed an even larger lack of faith when he questioned Hashem asking Him how he could supply enough cattle and sheep to eat for a month,[25], this was done in private, so he was spared punishment. Here, on the other hand, it was said in the presence of all the Jews so he was not spared because of the sanctification of Hashem's Name.[24]

Pharaoh’s astrologers foresaw that the savior of the Jews would be smitten through water, that is why they decreed that all newborn males be cast into the Nile. These were the waters of dispute that Moshe ended up being punished though,[26] causing Hashem to be sanctified through them, for when Hashem judges the righteous, He is feared and sanctified by mankind.[24]

[edit] Other Results

Had Moshe not hit the rock, the Jews would not have to toil so hard to understand the Oral Torah[27]

[edit] Rejected by Edom

[edit] Passing of Aharon

[edit] Battle With the Amalekites

[edit] The Venomous Snakes

[edit] Salvation from the Amorites

[edit] Song of the Well

[edit] War of Sichon the Amorite

[edit] Battle of Yaazer

[edit] War of Og King of Bashan

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b c d Rashi Bamidbar 19:2
  2. ^ a b c Rashi Bamidbar 19:3
  3. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 19:4
  4. ^ a b Rashi Bamidbar 19:7
  5. ^ a b c d e f Rashi Bamidbar 19:9
  6. ^ a b c d Rashi Bamidbar 19:13
  7. ^ a b Rashi Bamidbar 19:16
  8. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 19:14
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Rashi Bamidbar 19:22
  10. ^ a b c Rashi Bamidbar 19:15
  11. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 19:12
  12. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 19:19
  13. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 19:20
  14. ^ a b c Rashi Bamidbar 19:21
  15. ^ Yishayahu 1:18
  16. ^ a b c Rashi Bamidbar 20:1
  17. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 20:2
  18. ^ Nachlas Yackov, Masikil L'Dovid Rashi Kepsuto Devarim 33:8
  19. ^ a b c Rashi Bamidbar 20:3
  20. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 20:8
  21. ^ a b c Rashi Bamidbar 20:10
  22. ^ a b Rashi Bamidbar 20:11
  23. ^ Shemos 17:6
  24. ^ a b c d e Rashi Bamidbar 20:12
  25. ^ Bamidbar 11:22
  26. ^ Rashi Bamidbar 20:13
  27. ^ Tikunay Zohar, Tikun 21, Page 43A

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