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Chukat ~ חקת
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. B’nei 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 Elazar 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, B’nei Yisrael conquer the lands that Sichon had previously seized from the Amonites on the east bank of the Jordan River.
MAFTIR Numbers 21:34 – 22:1 ~ page 663 – 664
HAFTARAH Judges 11:1 – 33 ~ page 664 – 667
The Ammonites oppressed Israel for 18 years. Yiftach, a renowned warrior, is called to Gilead by his half brotherswho had formerly spurned him, to lead the attack against the enemy. He accepts on condition he is appointed permanent chief. He tries to reach a settlement by peaceful means. He asks the Ammonite king the reasons for his attack. He replies ‘Israel took away my land when he came out of Egypt from Arnon even unto Jabbok’. Yiftach denies this claim and recalls how the Israelites in the wilderness had attacked the Ammonites to whom this territory belonged (as narrated in the Sidra). Setting out on his campaign Jephthah vows that, if successful, he will offer to G-d whosoever comes out of his house to meet him on his return. The Ammonites are heavily defeated.
Parashah Study Questions
1. What does the word “perfect” (temima) mean in v.19:22? Wasn’t Yakov called “Eish Tam” (25:28)?
2. Why was the mitzvah of the para aduma entrusted to Elazar rather than to Aaron (v. 19:22)?
3. Why did Moshe need to strike the rock a second time (v. 20:11)? Why did G-d fulfill the miracle if Moshe sinned by hitting it?
4. The Rabbis explain ‘ we will not drink from the well-water’ of the land as a financial commitment to buy water from the Edomites. What difference does that make (20:17)?
5. Traditionalists explain the People were punished with snakes because, like snakes they did which two things (21:6)?