40 Chukat/Balak

         זֹאת חֻקַּ֣ת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה יְהוה לֵאמֹ֑ר דַּבֵּ֣ר׀ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה תְּמִימָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר אֵֽין־בָּהּ מוּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־עָלָה עָלֶיהָ עֹֽל׃

This is the law of the Torah which the Lord has commanded, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish





Brit Chadasha

July 4 2020


Numbers 19:1-25:9

Micah 5:6-6:8

Heb. 9:11-28
John 3:10-21


35 chukatIn Parashat Chukat, we find an overwhelming concern with death. At the beginning we find the mysterious laws of the Red Heifer, a very rare animal that is burnt in a special fire outside the camp. Its ashes are then used to ritually purify those who have become impure due to contact with a dead body. The portion then jumps ahead 38 years to the end of the Israelites’ wandering in the desert. We read the brief description of the death of Miriam, the prophetess who was the older sister of Moses and Aaron, and then an incident about the people’s need for water. These two events are in fact connected by the Rabbis of the Talmud, who notice that stories with Miriam are always associated with water.

Parashat Balak features a remarkable turn of events: King Balak of Moab summons the soothsayer Balaam to curse the Israelites, saying, “There is a people that came out of Egypt; it hides the earth from view, and it is settled next to me.  Come then, put a curse upon this people for me.” Balaam, however, is told by God, “You must not curse that people, for they are blessed.” When Balaam sees the Israelites encamped he blesses them. Not only does he bless them once, but he rejects King Balak’s order three separate times, each time blessing the Israelite people again. King Balak spends much time trying to convince Balaam to curse the people. His strategy, which is doomed to fail, is nonetheless worthy of attention.