As we enter the Torah portion of Chukat (or Chukas) in 2018, below are some Parsha thoughts (in no particular order) that you might find relevant in one way or another. Most of these originated as tweets.
(1) Two great & familiar biblical characters pass away in #Parsha #Chukat: #Miriam & #Aharon, each in their own way helped shape the Jewish People in our earliest days, contributing to the fabric of who we are today.
(1a) There’s the #Miriam of joyous redemption, leading women at the #SplittingoftheSea during the biblical #Exodus, singing with a tambourine in hand. And there’s the #Miriam of times of crisis, slavery & hopelessness. Miriam is the one advocating, waiting, hoping – & doing something about it. She stood watching baby Moshe’s basket, peeking out through the reeds. And when Pharoah’s daughter reached for the basket, Miriam went to see how she could help. #Miriam stands for hope in midst of hopelessness, clarity in uncertain times, being there – even at a distance – in the hour of need.
(1b) #Aharon celebrated compromise in relationships, putting people before principle, sought to bring them closer together. Seeing both sides of an issue, #Aharon was nuanced & subtle (sometimes to a fault) seeking reconciliation over confrontation. It was his stick that flowered, loving principles with beautiful blossoms. Indeed, Ethics of our Fathers encourages us all to learn his way: “be among the disciples of Aharon, who loved peace and pursued peace, loved creations and brought them close to Torah.” #Moshe would say “Let the law break thru the mountain” (chips fall as they may, the law is the law) while #Aharon “loved peace, pursued peace” sought to reconcile, help people, make it work. (Talmud Sanhedrin 6b) which is why in #Parsha #Chukat ALL the house of Israel mourned #Aharon’s passing.
(2) #Chukat opens with a cleansing process, a purification from impurity. We’ve been so muddied & sullied, we could really use the uplift. One of the hardest things to understand about the #RedHeifer is how it helped the impure become pure, but made the pure impure.
(3a) The name of the #Parsha is #Chukat, which literally means statute, a Mitzvah we can’t rationally understand. The Chassidic take on #Chukat is that it shares the Hebrew root with “Chakikah” which means engraved, etched in a way that we become one with it. It is about that which we connect with on the highest level of commitment, transcending all reason or benefit. Some things just can’t be explained, it is just too deep for that.
(3b) The irrational laws called “Chok” remind us that we can’t understand everything, sometimes our perspective or purview is limited, there are things that are larger than what we might see and understand. This branch of Jewish law engenders a sense of humility and respect. It is actually the branch of Jewish law that we are most ridiculed for its observance.
(4) The famous biblical story of Moshe’s hitting the rock is in this week’s #Parsha #Chukat. Strangely, there’s a lively Chabad melody about him hitting the rock! Why sing joyously about this? See this past Mendel’s Messages post for an insight into this song, this story and great leadership.
(5) There IS a border dispute in #Chukat! Some of the sensitives or concerns may be seem somewhat similar but the circumstances are not really the same. In this case the Jews were seeking a pathway through other nations land, to reach the land of Israel, without intent of staying in those lands.
(6) The healing copper snake on the pole (forerunner of today’s medical symbol the caduceus or the Rod of Asclepius) is also in this week’s Torah portion. #Mishna explains that snake on the pole is a way of leading the Jews eyes heavenward, for the snake itself does not heal, rather our turning to heaven is what heals. There are other explanations of the snake on the pole. One might be that highlighting the problem, the issue, holding it up as an clear example for all to see, may be one way of helping (to start to) heal or solve the problem.