This parashah has some interesting events, some of which are hard, if not impossible, to understand.
First, a red heifer is completely burned up, mixed with cedar, hyssop, and scarlet yearn, to make ashes that are used to cleanse someone who has become unclean, such as when touching a corpse.
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Next, Miriam dies and Moses and Aaron bring water from a rock but do so without giving Adonai the proper respect and honor so are punished by not being allowed to enter the land. Imagine…after 40 years of perfect service to God, they make this one mistake and they do not get to see the land God promised to the people!
They come to Mount Hor where Aaron is to die, with Eliezer taking over his duties as Cohen HaGadol. Later, the people rebel against Moses (again), and God sends serpents to plague and kill the people, who repent and ask forgiveness. This is when Moses sets up the brass serpent, so that anyone who is bitten and looks at the brass serpent, will not die.
The parashah ends with the conquering of Og and Sihon, the kings that ruled the land East of the Jordan river.
Every year when I come to this parashah, I usually talk about the serpent. I discuss how later in 2 Kings 18 we read about it being worshiped as an idol, and how the prophecy Yeshua gave in John 3:14 doesn’t just talk about the method of his death, but how Christianity will turn him into an idol, replacing worship of God, just like what happened with the brass serpent.
But I’m not going there, today.
Today I want to talk about the title of this parashah, Chukkat, and what it means to us.
There are three types of laws in Judaism: Mishpatim, which are laws we can perform and understand the meaning for, such as do not murder, do not steal, do not lie, etc. There are also the laws that come under the title of Eidot, which are like a testimonial, such as the commandments to wear Tefillin (phylacteries), to eat matzah during Hag HaMatzot (the 7 days after the Passover), or to rest on the Shabbat.
The third type of laws are the ones for which this parashah is named, Chukkim, which we accept as divinely ordered, even though they are, for the most part, incomprehensible. Some even seem to be contradictory.
For instance, in this parashah, we are given the process for creating ashes to make us clean, but everyone associated with that process becomes unclean. The ashes, themselves, are kept outside the camp where unclean things are, but their use makes one clean.
Also, the dietary laws (Kashrut) don’t seem to make any sense at all. For instance, why is an animal that chews its cud and has a split hoof clean, but an animal with a split hoof or an animal that chews its cud, but doesn’t have both these features, is unclean? Why are fish with scales and fins clean but lobster is off the menu?
And why do we have to have 12 loaves of showbread (Exodus 25:30) that sit for a week?
Would you like to know the answer? So would I. There is no answer, really. Human beings just HAVE to know everything, so we make up answers that we think sound good. But, when it comes down to it, we don’t know why God gave us Chukkim, and we will probably never know why.
And even more important is that we don’t need to know why- we just need to know that God said this is what we should do. And, frankly, if that isn’t enough for you, then you will have a problem going forward with your spiritual growth.
Here is today’s message: don’t ask, don’t wonder, don’t complain, just do.
Any questions? I hope not, because if you do have questions then you haven’t learned today’s lesson.
Faith is more than just confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1); real faith is doing something when you don’t know why you are supposed to do it, but you do it because God says to do it, and that is enough for you.
It is easy for someone to say they have faith in God and faith in Yeshua, but how can we or anyone else know that? Yes, we all know that God knows, but it is almost as important for you to demonstrate that faith to others as an example of what it means to know and worship God. My regular readers have heard me say this many times: people don’t mean what they say, they mean what they do. Someone who professes faith in God, but ignores God’s instructions and lives their life the way they want to, is demonstrating a lack of faith. That is not the type of example which will help bring someone into the kingdom of God.
I don’t know why God gave the instructions he did in the Torah, and I don’t care why. I don’t need to know, I just need to follow them the best I can. That’s it. No answers, no explanations, no divine inspiration, and no supernatural understanding. All I need to know is what God told me to do and to do it.
Human pridefulness is the main reason we must know why, and here is how I handle that: I say, “Get thee behind me, need-to-know!” You DON’T need to know… you just need to obey. And if anyone tells you why these laws were given and which ones you don’t need to obey, they are not edifying you or helping you become more spiritually mature; what they are doing is leading you down the pathway to destruction.
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I wish you all Shabbat Shalom, and until next time…L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!