As you make your way through Parsha Chukas, aptly named for the Chok (a law given by the RBSO seemingly without rhyme or reason, at least none that we humans can chap), you may well come to the conclusion that it’s sad, depressing and that you’d be better off talking during laining. The heylige Oisvorfer suggests avada that you listen to the parsha but if you mamish can’t control yourselves, and mistama you taka can’t, try to whisper. Efsher you’d like to weigh in on a few sports headlines this week including Jason Kidd becoming a head coach, the potential of Miami losing the finals or the Tbow to New England move where somehow he will find a way to hurt the Jets. After all, aren’t you a sports expert? In fact, any topic might seem cheery when compared to some of the vents that befall the Yiddin this week.
Let’s review the high and low lights. This week we say hello to the Poro Adumah (Red Heifer) and its difficult to comprehend laws, goodbye to Miriam and Aharoin. Moishe’s shtekin (staff) will have an uncalled for encounter with a rock, consequences are severe. We’ll read about war games with the nation of Edoim, real war with the nation of Ke’nan, and the Yiddin complaining once again. The RBSO will respond by unleashing snakes to bite the Yiddin – sadly, many die. Thereafter the RBSO will have Moishe build the antidote to the snakebites, the Yiddin will war against the kings of Sichoin and Oig and much more. Are you depressed yet?
Even oisvorfs like many of you, avada recall that the Yiddin, originally destined to leave Mitzrayim and enter into the promised land almost immediately, were, following the meraglim fiasco, condemned to 40 years of valgering (roaming) in the midbar. And how did they keep themselves busy for 40 years? Ver veyst and the emes is we’ll never know because of the ‘black hole’. Can a black hole, if you chap, keep one busy for 38 years? Ver veyst? Ober it’s not what you think, you girferliche chazir. Instead the Oisvorfer is referring to the black hole which in this case means the missing 38 years. Taka, 38 years are missing? Who took them and where did they go? Ver veyst ober, missing from the narrative they certainly are and the heylige Toirah which just last week was recounting the Yiddin’s foibles during year two, is, in this week’s very sad parsha of Chukas, telling us what took place in year 40; the action is fast and furious. We fast forward from the Koirach rebellion last week which took place in year two (following redemption) – he lost- and shoin, it’s year 40. What taka happened during the 38 years and why is there no mention at all about these years? Was everything peaceful with the Yiddin? Were they happy and observing the heylige Toirah? Were they suddenly tzifriddin (content) with their steady menu of Munn and were they observing the 613 mitzvois that were delivered both in written and in oral form? Ver veyst.
Taka, some are of the opinion that these 38 years were mamish years of tranquility and bliss; everyone got along with the RBSO and His appointed leaders. Says Rav Simcha Zissel based on a mishna in Avos and also based on the heylige Gemora (Eruchin 15a) that for the 38 intervening years, the Yiddin were taka perfect. Nu, even if this pshat is what really took place, here we are in year 40 and the Yiddin are restless once again, actually twice in this parsha alone. Even Moishe Rabaynu will find himself embroiled in some controversy; things tend to go awry when there is shtekin abuse or misuse, if you chap. Ober says Rav Zissel that it’s taka emes and that during these 38 years there were no challenges, no complaints, and the Yiddin people behaved perfectly!
What taka happened during the missing 38 years we taka don’t know, and mistama we’ll have to wait for the Moshiach to arrive and fill in the blanks; he’ll be quite busy doing that. One medrish suggests that the long gap in the narrative is justified because the 38 years weren’t important given that the entire generation of males but for a few exceptions – think Yehoishua and Colave- had been condemned to die in the midbar: dead men walking. Oib azoy (that being the case), who cares what took place for the 38 years and there was no reason for the Toirah to recount their every move.
As we begin our review of Chukas, there are seemingly still too may Yiddin alive and if you recall, which zicher you no longer do, the RBSO had previously declared that the generation of males that left Mitzrayim were not going to make it over to the promised land; instead they were destined to die in the midbar. Ober it’s already year 40 and they’re still here. What to do? Nu, not to worry because as they did in years 1 and 2 following their grand exit from Mitzrayim, here in year 40 not much has changed. The Yiddin still have some last minute mischief left in them, and in Chukkas, we will also learn about their latest round of complaints and how the RBSO went about further thinning out the population. Nu, wouldn’t you expect those lucky enough to have survived this debacle to be on their best behavior? Of course you would, but you’d be dead wrong. In the, so were they.
And more sad news: in Chukas we say goodbye and a final farewell to two of the more beloved leaders of the Yiddin. Nebech both Miriam and Ahroin will die in the parsha. The Yiddin will again complain about their menu, the lack of water and more. Snakes and scorpions will make an appearance appear and avada you know that when snakes appear in the heylige Toirah, something bad is brewing; they don’t disappoint.
Want more bad news? Just last week Ahroin had an amazing miracle occur to his shteken; it stood firmly, flowered and blossomed ober this week (taka its 38 years later) our leader Moishe has epes a less than pleasant encounter with his shteken. Seemingly, shtekins need be used appropriately, if you chap. This week, Moishe will epes use the shteken in a way that is verboten; avada many of you can relate to such usage, if you chap, and will be immediately punished by suddenly finding himself among the many that are denied entry visas into the land. Could it get any worse?
Seemingly it does when after yet another round of complaints by the Yiddin, the heylige Toirah tells us that ‘many died’. Interestingly enough, the heylige Toirah tells us that ‘many’ died, however no number is provided. The Oisvorfer did as a shtikel search and found that in kimat every other instance where the RBSO thins out the population, the number of dead is always provided ober not so in this week’s parsha. Why, ver veyst; is it shayich (possible) that the number was so large, efsher too big to mention and must have included the great majority of those still alive but condemned to die in the midbar and given that it’s year 40, their time was seemingly up? Sounds plausible and nebech.
Shoin: lommer unfangin where the parsha begins with the laos of the Poro Aduma. What the hec is a poro aduma (a red cow), why do its ashes make people pure and impure and why do we have this strange law on our books? Excellent kashas, all of them and many have wondered the same. Guess what? They haven’t a clue but that hasn’t stopped them from pontificating and writing hundreds of medroshim about its uniqueness. Here’s the bottom line according to the Oisvorfer ; who know better?
Ober before I give you real pshat, this is what we have to know and because you mistama don’t, allow me to start with basic information. The word Chukas means a statute. The commandments of the heylige Toirah are divided into three groups: testimonies, statutes and judgments. Judgments (Mishpatim) are logical commandments and include such regular items as thou shall not murder, helping the poor, taking responsibility for damages and respecting parents. You hear the ah-say, even the loi sah-say, you chap and it makes sense though you don’t always follow the rules, Testimonies (Edois) are Mitzvois that are reasonable but are not logically inherent, such as buying hand baked shmura matzoh for over $20 a pound and eating it until you’re mamish constipated. Chukim or Statutes are Mitzvois that are followed purely because that’s what the RBSO told us to do and He’s the big boss. There a number of interesting chukim ober not for today. Ok veyter!.
As we learned just above, this is a topic few ever chapped and that includes the Oisvorfer. Many though wax on prophetically with their own unique spin as to why, where, when and other sorted details. Of course it’s all made up as we really don’t know why and mistama the RBSO didn’t want us to know why. If He did tell us why- hec- it wouldn’t be a chok after all, would it? A chok with a reason is by definition not a chok! Think about that pshat- it’s mamish brilliant! Said Shlomo Hamelech, the wisest of all ( Koheles 7:23) azoy: “I thought I could become wise yet it is far from me.” What is the word ‘it’ referring to? The only thing in the world that was beyond his grasp was an understanding of the red heifer (seemingly he didn’t have trouble chapping the 1000 veyber he collected). Adds the Ba’al HaTurim, an excellent source for gematria of all kinds: the gematria of the words “and it is far”, “v’he rechoika” = 341 which is also the gematria of poroh aduma. Givaldig mamish. Nu, if Shlomo and his harem couldn’t figure it out, will we? And why bother?
Moreover, who says you have to understand everything the RBSO wants from us? He’s in charge and we are here to listen or maybe not but certainly we don’t have to understand everything? Our job is to believe and do; it’s all about faith. How can we ever chap a laws that renders the impure totally pure, clean and good to go yet the individual perfuming the cleaning process, become impure? Ver veyst.
Immediately following the cow story, Miriam dies so let’s say goodbye to Moishe’s older sister. She was after all a good and decent person, seemingly her only aveyro in life was some loshoin hora about Moishe’s black and beautiful or just beautiful and maybe not black, eishes chayil- err I mean Kushite wife (depending on which pshat talks to you) . Avada as kids, we were excited to hear that Moishe had a tinkele veyb (black wife); it zicher assuaged our guilt when our minds began to wander and as we imagined minuvildike acts with a tinkele beauty. And is loshoin horo so giferlich? Don’t we speak it daily? Anyway it’s not nice to speak ill of the departed so let’s move along.
But let’s give her a shtikel sendoff, a hesped if you will. Our first major hero, the righteous and prophetic sister of Moishe Rabbaynu is gone. Some say her name came from the word mar which means bitter, because she was born in the midst of the bitterness of the Egyptian oppression. But here’s more. Grada without Miriam, the course of history might look very different. It was she who inspired the birth of Moishe in the first place when she convinced her parents to remarry in spite of Paroy the minuvil’s decree against Jewish males. Says the medrish that when Amrom separated from his eishes chayil Yoicheved, Miriam, then only a little girl, said to her father, “Who knows if the redeemer might come from your union.” And what happened? Moishe was born. And the BNY taka missed her as we learn immediately following her passing.
Ok, let’s get to the main story line of the Parsha: Moishe Rabaynu and the infamous encounter with the rock; the story of “Mei Meriva” (the waters of contention). By all accounts he’s zicher the greatest leader the Yiddin ever had but this week he too is in trouble. What terrible thing could he have done? Did he open a food establishment immediately next door to another? Avada nisht, chas v’sholom!! Taka, what happened? Nu lets learn. Says the heylige Toirah “And Moishe raised his arm and struck the rock…” (20:11). You hear this news? Moishe struck the rock. Not once but twice!
Says the heylige gemora that after Miriam died, the well, which was a water source for the BNY in the midbar, disappeared. The Yiddin were thirsty and complained. In response, the RBSO commanded Moishe to bring forth water from a rock. The Toirah records that Moishe and Aharoin sinned, however, the exact nature of the transgression is not specified in the verses. Says Rashi that Moishe’s sin was a result of striking the rock to bring forth water rather than communicating with it. How does one communicate with a rock? Nu, married people would efsher know, if you chap. Let’s get real: What gifreliche avayro did he commit and what took place?
As we learned earlier, when Miriam died, the well of water that accompanied the BNY, dried up. Nu, a dry well is taka not so good, if you chap. Says the heylige gemoro: The water was in the zechus (merit) of Miriam, the munn people ate, in the merit of Moishe, and the anany hakoivd (clouds of glory), in the merit of Ahroin. When the Yiddin complained about the drought , the RBSO told Moishe to take his staff, the same one that’s been doing magic tricks since Mitzrayim and to gather all the yiddin around the rock. Moishe was further instructed: speak to the rock, which will then give forth water.
Moishe selected the wrong rock, mistama this was before rocks could be bar-coded or efsher the rocks moved around and Moishe spoke to the wrong rock or efsher he didn’t speak nicely enough to the rock, ver veyst? Nu, the rock was insulted, the result being that nothing happened, no water for the Yiddin. Seemingly when people or things are insulted, they don’t’ respond and mistama many of you know this. Still thirsty, the Yiddin complained, and Moishe lost his temper.
Next: he consults with his older brother Aharoin and seemingly together they decided that talking was not getting the job done and maybe it was shteken time. Isn’t that what your Rebbe used when you weren’t compliant? Moishe hits the correct rock, but it only yielded a few drops. Moishe gives it a second whack and fresh desert water came gushing out, the Yiddin were tzifredin (satisfied) but the RBSO not so and immediately following this incident tells Moishe and Aharoin azoy.
Because you two did not “believe in Me to sanctify Me before the people” (bamidbar 20:12), both of you are doomed and will not make it over into land- oy vey! Did you chap all that happened here? Did you just read that the RBSO specifically told Moishe to take his shtekin (staff) and produce water? You did and for that he was punished?
Asks The Ramban mamish gevaldig: if the RBSO instructed Moishe to take the staff from the Holy of Holies and bring it with him, what was he Moishe to think?
Was Moishe set-up, entrapped efsher? Let’s review the facts: the RBSO told Moishe to take his stick. Nu if he’s told to take his stick, the same stick he’s been using for many years, the stick that split the sea and did other wonders, wouldn’t Moishe be led to believe that this same stick will be used to make water? Leomoshol (by way of example): if the Oisvorfer invited you to his house and told you to bring a bathing suit, would you not expect to go swimming? And if you were invited to the house Friday night following shul, would you not expect dinner? What’s pshat here? Why did the RBSO get so angry with Moishe when he used his stick? It appears that this question too will be settled on day by Moshiach.
Moreover, for those who remember- way back in Shemois 17:6, the RBSO told Moishe to take his shteken and hit the farkakte rock. If you were Moishe and avada you’re not because in fact you’re an oisvorf, a minuvil and a bum, but if you were, and after hearing such instructions way back when, wouldn’t you think it’s ‘the old hit the rock with the stick routine’ all over again?
Ok, as you only imagine, hundreds of pages have been written on this episode, each with its own twist as to what went wrong, why the RBSO dealt so harshly with the two brothers, our hero’s mamish. And based on what happened to them, can you only imagine what’s in store for us? As an aside, why did Aharoin get the boot as well as there is no mention of him hitting the rock or even holding onto his shteken? Was he an accessory to the crime? Ver veyst! Did Moishe use Aharoin’s shteken?
Long before David Letterman popularized his ‘top ten list’, the heylige Ohr HaChaim compiled this list of Moishe’s heinous crimes.
- Rashi: the RBSO told Moishe to speak to the rock, but he hit it. We must always bear in mind that properly speaking to someone will accomplish more than physical contact, even something hard as a rock.
- Ibn Ezra: Moishe did not have the right concentration when he hit the rock because he was distracted by the nation’s bickering and complaining that they were thirsty. In other words: when pounding the rock, one needs kavono, if you chap.
- Ibn Ezra: He was only supposed to hit the rock once, because that constituted speaking to it, but he hit it twice. Sometimes a “potch” may be necessary, but it must be exact. Overhitting is verbotrten.
- Ibn Ezra: the BNY should have sung a song of thanks to the RBSO. Was Moishe a choir leader as well?
- Ibn Ezra: Moishe called the BNY ‘rebels’. In other words: he insulted them.
- Rambam: “Moishe got angry leading the Yiddin to think that the RBSO was angry at them as well, which was not the case.
- Rabbeinu Chananel: Moishe made it sound as if he and Aharoin were bringing out the water and not the RBSO.
- R”M Kohen: “Moshe made it sound like it was impossible for the RBSO to make water come from the rock.
- R”Y Albo (Ikrim): Moishe and Aharoin should have brought the BNY water before they even had to complain; he should have had water bottles ready as has become the minhag at chasunas (weddings) during dancing.
- Maaseh Hashem: The BNYs and Moishe were arguing and Moishe threw his stick onto the rock in anger.”
Ober according to the heylige Oisvorfer’s understanding, which is taka quite limited, for whatever reason the RBSO had previously decided that neither Moishe nor his siblings were going to make it over to the land. Why? Ver veyst? It’s all part of the master plan; we are but puppets. Did Moishe do something so giferlich? It’s not like he was playing with his shteken or someone else’s, if you chap. Let’s just say it wasn’t bashert and move on. Efsher the Yiddin needed some younger blood to take over; he was after all a mature 120. Did he have the koiach to walk the hills of Yerusholayim? Could he have made it up the hill from the Kotel to the hotels?
Not much later the Yiddin are at it again, more complaining to Moishe. “Why have you brought us up from Egypt for there is no food and there is no water and our soul is disgusted with the Munn. This time the RBSO took exception to the constant whining and sent venomous snakes and serpents, and they bit the people and many many of the nation perished. You hear all this? Sounds like the Yiddin are having anger management issues.
Next: The people came to Moishe, confessing their sin. They begged that he pray to the RBSO for their forgiveness and as always (except in the Koirach incident) Moishe did just that and the RBSO gave him the snakebite antidote. Says the medrish azoy: Snakes have no taste buds and all food tastes the same to them. When the snake is asked why he bites without getting any pleasure, he merely replies, “And what physical pleasure does the slanderer receive?” The measure-for-measure punishment for complaining about the munn – which tasted as anything one desired, was to be bitten by a snake – to whom all food tasted the same.
The RBSO told Moishe to make a model of a fiery serpent out of copper, place it on a pole and advise the people suffering from snakebites to stare at it. Asks the Mishna (Rosh HaShono 29a): “does the (copper) snake kill or cure? Rather, when the Yiddin lifted their eyes (toward the snake on the pole) they looked heavenward toward their Father in Heaven and this cured them; otherwise they withered away.” In other words, the farkakte snake was powerless and useless, as it has been since the garden of eden story; only by looking up to the RBSO could one get cured. The heylige gemoro tells us that hundreds of years later, the king Chizkiyahu destroyed the copper serpent, because the people were idolizing it and losing their faith in the RBSO. 18:4).
A gitten shabbis
The Oisvorfer Ruv