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Chukat ~ חקת~ 5774
The laws of the ‘para aduma’ (the red heifer) are detailed. These laws are for the ritual purification of one who comes into contact with death.
After nearly 40 years in the desert, Miriam dies and is buried at Kadesh. The people complain about the loss of their water supply that, until now, has been provided miraculously in the merit of Miriam’s righteousness. Aaron and Moshe pray for the people’s welfare. G-d commands them to gather the nation at Merivah and speak to a designated rock so that water will flow forth. Distressed by the people’s lack of faith, Moshe hits the rock instead of speaking to it. He thus fails to produce the intended public demonstration of G-d’s mastery over the world, which would have resulted, had the rock produced water, merely at Moshe’s word. Therefore, G-d tells Moshe and Aaron that they will not bring the people into the Land.
Bnei Yisrael resume their travels, but because the King of Edom, a descendant of Esav, denies them passage through his country, they do not travel the most direct route to Eretz Yisrael. When they reach Mount Hor, Aaron dies and his son Eliazar is invested with his priestly garments and responsibilities. Aaron was beloved by all, and the entire nation mourns him 30 days.
Sichon, the Amorite, attacks Bnei Yisrael when they ask to pass through his land. As a result, Bnei Yisrael conquer the lands that Sichon had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank of the Jordan River.
MAFTIR Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Numbers 28:9-15 ~ page 695
HAFTARAH Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Isaiah 66:1-24 ~ page 944-947
This Haftarah tells how G-d doesn’t desire the sacrifices of the wicked. As the Temple is G-d’s resting place on earth, how dare one try to offer sacrifices that are not spiritually pure? The prophet Isaiah predicts that Jerusalem will flourish with the ingathering of the Jewish exiles. He reminds us that Hashem wouldn’t bring us this far to let us down. In the future, G-d will punish the wicked and destroy them. The nations of the world will help bring back the remaining Jews to Jerusalem from distant lands. Isaiah concludes: all the righteous people will find comfort in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem.
Parashah Study Questions
- All the ingredients of the Red Heifer have deep meaning. Why must the heifer never have been “yoked” to a plow or wagon (19:2)?
- Rashi states that the sudden lack of water occurred immediately after the death of Miriam since it only existed in her merit. Why did Israel need to suffer so much at this point and time (20:1-2)?
- What are the two possible sins committed by Moshe and Aaron at the incident of the ‘Hitting of the Rock’ (20:10-11)?
- What are the differences between how the nation mourned Miriam’s death (20:1-2) and Aaron’s death (20:29)?
- What happened to the Israelites kidnapped by the King of Arad (21:1)?