Chukat discusses the parah adumah (red heifer).
In current times, this has been a major news item in
that it was believed that a kosher red heifer had been located
in Israel. The
point of such a discovery is that the ashes of the parah
adumah can be used to sanctify the Beit HaMikdash
(Temple). It was
not Jewish sources who were promoting this discovery but
rather other religions. As
is typical with those who have a limited or poor understanding
of Judaism, a red heifer wouldn't be of much use without the
Temple to sanctify. Needless
to say, once this point was raised, the story lost its luster.
The point of
the parah adumah is that the ashes reverse the
spiritual state that a person is in. If a person who is cleansed comes into contact with the
ashes, he becomes unclear; and vice versa.
Most interesting is the fact that the ashes also
cleansed a person of sin, as we can see in verse 9:
Raphael Hirsch translates this verse as follows:
And a man who is pure shall gather up the ashes of the cow and
lay them down outside the camp in a pure place.
And it shall remain for the children of Israel to be
kept as a water of separation, it is an expiation-from-sin
In any event,
the focus for this week can be found at the end of Parashat
Balak. Two areas
warrant consideration. The
first has to do a unique line in the Torah that is only
occasionally listen to. The
second continues with the theme that was discussed in last
week's commentary. This
first can be found at Chav-Daled/tet (24:9)
"He crouched and lay down like a lion, and, like a lion
cub -- who can stand him up? Those who bless you are blessed
and those who curse you are accursed.":
"he" in this case is Klal Yisrael.
Frequently throughout the Tanach (the Hebrew
Scriptures), Klal Yisrael is referred to as Yaakov. The "he" is identified in verse 5.
Rav Hirsch's commentary is as follows:
[Klal Yisrael] has conquered the nations and has taken up its
peaceful position in their midst, then it rests, commanding
such respect that no one dares attack it.
both in the time of Yehoshua (Joshua) and current history.
Following the War of 1948, the State of Israel
commanded a great deal of respect from its neighbors.
looks down again at Israel and pronounces the great saying
"Those that bless . . ." the greatest one, that once
God proclaimed when He first chose Abraham (Bereshit/Genesis
12:3), and Isaac repeated when he blessed Jacob (ibid 27:29).
Here, as in the last quotation mentioned, Those who
bless you and Those who curse you are in the plural
but the predicates blessed and cursed are in the
singular. So it
seems that it is to be taken thus:
all those that bless thee, i.e., that respect thy
principle and further it, they have the blessing, i.e., they
are those that can expect blessing and prosperity from God,
they are those who altogether have a future under God's
government of the world.
But those that curse thee, i.e., who are opposed to the
principle which is to be brought into the consciousness of
mankind through thee and wish to see its ruin through thy
ruin, they are those who bear the curse in themselves, whom
God has destined to ruin, that have no future on God's earth.
continue with last week's discussion concerning Klal Yisrael's
responsibilities and consequences.
In Perek Chav-Hay (Chapter 25), we see the second, but
first real, instance of the commission of idolatry by Klal
Yisrael and the results of that.
1. Israel settled in the Shittim and the people began to commit harlotry with the daughters of Moab:
2. They invited the people to the feasts of their gods; the people ate and prostrated themselves to their gods:
3. Israel became attached to Baal-peor, and the wrath of Hashem flared up against Israel:
4. Hashem said to Moses, "Take all the leaders of the people. Hang them before Hashem against the sun -- and the flaring wrath of Hashem will withdraw from Israel.":
5. Moses said to the judges of Israel, "Let each man kill his men who were attached to Baal-peor.":
6. Behold! a man of the Children of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman near to his brothers in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the entire assembly of the Children of Israel; and they were weeping at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting:
7. Phineas son of Eleazar son of Aaron the Kohen saw, and he stood up from amid the assembly and took a spear in his hand:
8. He followed the Israelite man into the tent and pierced them both, the Israelite man and the woman into her stomach -- and the plague was halted from the Children of Israel:
Those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand:
sword of no stranger, the curse of no stranger had the power
to damage Israel. Only
it itself could bring misfortune, by seceding from God and His
commentary to verse 9 is:
the Golden Calf only three thousand fell, and although there,
too, in addition, guilty ones also died by sudden death, the
number that fell here still seems to have been considerably
greater. Thus a
cult of idol-worship of depraved immorality gains infinitely
more ground than mere metaphysical idol-aberration.
It should be
noted, as I discussed last week, that Moshe interceded during
the episode with the Golden Calf. In this case, it was the actions of Phineas, the son of
Eleazar and grandson of Aharon, that halted the plague. To continue with next week's Parashah,
10. Hashem spoke to Moses, saying:
11. Phineas, son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the Kohen, turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel, when he zealously avenged Me among them, so I did not consume the Children of Israel in My vengeance:
12. Therefore, say - Behold! I give him My covenant of peace:
And it shall be for him and his offspring after him a covenant
of eternal priesthood, because he took vengeance for his God,
and he atoned for the Children of Israel:
Idolatry, abandoning the worship of Hashem and worse, putting other gods before God, carries terrible penalties for Klal Yisrael. As I have mentioned in other commentaries, Klal Yisrael is blessed or cursed as a whole - not as individuals. This creates an awesome responsibility for every Jew living today to attempt to live up to the commandment that, by our lives and the way we live, we set an example for others to emulate.