The Torah Portion of Chukat
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l
"This is the statute of the Torah." (Bamidbar 19:2)
It's been asked, why wasn't it written "This is the statute of the Heifer" , and the explanation is that in the Torah there are Mitzvot that can be understood intellectually, such as honoring one's father and mother, which is a matter of gratitude, and observance of Shabbat and Yom Tov, since one needs to have rest and it's beneficial for the body. But regarding the Red Heifer, we don't know the reason for it, and if we fulfill it this demonstrates that we are fullfilling all the Torah for the sake of Hashem and not for the sake of our own selfish benefit. Therefore it is written "This is the statute of the Torah". (Bamidbar 19:2) (from the Ohr HaChaim)
"This is the statute of the Torah." (Bamidbar 19:2)
Rashi explains, since the Satan and nations of the world taunt Israel saying "What is this Mitzvah and what reason is there in it?", therefore it is written of it that it is a statute, it is a decree from before Me and you have no right to question it. And this needs investigating, why specifically regarding this Mitzvah do the Satan and nations of the world taunt Israel? And the explanation is what is written when Bilaam wanted to curse Israel, "And Bilaam saw that it was good in the eyes of Hashem to bless Israel, so he didn't go as in previous times in the direction of divinations, but he set his face toward the wilderness." (Bamidbar 24:1) And Rashi explains, Bilaam said that [whether] Hashem wants to curse them or doesn't want to curse them, I will recall their sins and the curse will take effect upon the mention of their sins. And the Translation into Aramaic by Onkeles says, that he set his face toward the direction of the [golden] calf that Israel served in the wilderness. Behold, that Balak and Bilaam when they wanted G-d-forbid to bring harm to Israel they knew that G-d-forbid that by means of recalling the sin of the calf the curse would take effect. And here (at the verse "This is the statute of the Torah") Rashi brings in the name of Rabbeinu Moshe HaDarshan a reason for the Red Heifer, that it is to atone for the sin of the calf: his mother should come and clean up the excrement of her son. And that is why the Satan and nations of the world taunt Israel precisely about this Mitzvah, "What is the reason for it?" so that they should say to them the reason is the calf and by means of that they will mention the sins of Israel and G-d-forbid the curse will take effect. And to this, the Holy One Blessed Be He answers, it is a statute from before Me and you have no right to question it. There is no permission to question it and to mention the sin, and thus the mouth of the Satan will be blocked.
Rashi brings a reason for the Red Heifer in the name of R' Moshe HaDarshan.
And this presents a difficulty, since the Sages said that we don't know the reason for the Red Heifer. The Ohr HaChama provides an explanation, when the Sages said that we don't know the reason for the Red Heifer, that was only on the level of P'shat (the simple, straightforward understanding of the Torah). But on the level of Midrashic interpretation, it's possible to say many reasons.
"Which doesn't have a defect, upon which a yoke has not come." (Bamidbar 19:2)
Someone who holds that he doesn't have any defects, it's a sign that he doesn't have upon him the Yoke Of Heaven. (from Mayana Shel Torah)
"And every open vessel that has no covering fastened to it is impure." (Bamidbar 19:15)
The explanation is that any earthenware vessel if it is not closed well, becomes defiled, because the defilement enters into its interior air-space. The Masters of Ethics say "Every open vessel" , someone who has an open mouth and speaks forbidden speech, "it is impure" , it's a sign that he has defilement within him.
"And the children of Israel came...And Miriam died there." (Bamidbar 20:1)
The section about the Red Heifer was told to Israel in the second year after going out from Egypt on Rosh Chodesh Nissan on the day of erecting the Mishkan (i.e. the Tabernacle), and the death of Miriam was in the fortieth year. So why was the the death of Miriam adjacent to the section about the Heifer, since many years had elapsed between the two events? The answer is that the verses are coming to hint to us that just as the Heifer atones for Israel, as was explained by R' Moshe HaDarshan that it atoned for the sin of the calf, so the death of Tzaddikim (righteous people) also atones.
Moshe was punished because he hit the rock.
This was because there would have been a great sanctification of Hashem's name if he had spoken to the rock; if a rock listens to what is spoken to him, all the moreso should a person listen to what is spoken to him. It has been asked, if one hits a rock and it gives water isn't that also a miracle and sanctification of Hashem's name? The explanation, is that the Holy One Blessed Be He desires that we should learn to come close to Hashem without having to be hit.
It is written by the Sages, that Aharon loved peace and pursued peace, and brought about peace between a man and his wife.
When Aharon died, 80,000 young men whose names were "Aharon" walked after his funeral bier. They had been born in the merit of Aharon who had brought about peace between their parents, and they were walking with their right shoulders exposed, for that used to be the custom.
"And from the wilderness to Matana (the name of a place , which can also be translated as the word "gift" in English). (Bamidbar 21:18)
The Sages say, that if one makes himself like a wilderness which is ownerless and he gives up all of the vanities of this world, and gives in to everyone without any resentment, he will get the Torah as a gift. One time a man went to the "Chazon Ish", and during their conversation he asked the "Chazon Ish" if he feels resentment towards him, because perhaps he said something to him that was disrespectful. The Chazon Ish answered him, in my store I don't have at all an item like that, I don't know what resentment is.
Ethical Teachings about Anger
The Sages say that every time that a person gets angry, it is as if he is participating in idol worship, because the anger is not beneficial for him at all just like idol worship which is not beneficial at all. And not only that, but it damages him. That is like what the Sages say, that for an angry person nothing comes up in his hand except for his anger, and all that it does is damage him. It is written in the holy books that occasionally when Hashem wants to shower a person with Heavenly blessings, He tests him in the matter of anger. If he overcomes his anger, he receives the blessings, but if G-d forbid he gets angry, then he loses them.
The Torah Portion of Chukat has 87 verses. 3 positive commandments. Haftora: "V'yiftach Hagiladi" (Shoftim, 11)Pirkei Avot, Chapter 6 (second cycle).
The Hebrew letters that spell the name of the month of Tammuz are: Tav, Mem, Vuv, and Zayin.These letters are the initial letters of two important messages:
1) "Z'manai T'shuva M'mashmashin U'va'in" (Note: Z'manai starts with Zayin, T'shuva starts with Tav, M'Mashmashin starts with Mem, U'va'in starts with Vuv)
In English that means: "The time for repentance is actualizing and coming."
2) "Z'rizin M'akdimin V'osin T'shuva" (Note: Z'rizin starts with Zayin, M'akdimin starts with Mem, V'osin starts with Vuv, T'shuva starts with Tav)
In English that means: "Alacritous people begin early and repent."
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772