Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Parshas Chukas- Chokim

Parshas Chukas

This week’s parsha commences with the discussion of the many different types of laws in Judaism. The mitzvot are generally divided into the following three categories:

1.    Testimonies- Adiot- these mitzvot serve as a testimony to our belief in Hashem. (For example, by observing Shabbot, that is our testimony that we believe that Hashem created the world in six days and on the seventh day, He rested. Additionally, by observing the yomim tovim- holidays- that is our testimony that Hashem rescued the Jewish people from Egypt.  Moreover, the mitzvah of tefillin and tzitzis are a testimony that we believe in Hashem’s rulership).
2.    Civil Laws- Mishpatim- these mitzvot were Divinely created to assure civility and safety for the survival of humanity. (For example: laws against theft, murder, etc.).
3.    Divine Ordinances- Chokim- are mitzvot that were Divinely created; however, their meaning is logically incomprehensible. There are four main chokim that the Midrash discusses:
a.    Yibum- If a man loses his brother he is forbidden to marry his dead brother’s wife if she has children; however, if she has no children, it is a mitzvah to marry her.
b.    Shaatnez- We are prohibited against wearing a garment that has both wool and linen together. However, if a person has a linen garment attached to wool tzitzis with a techalis thread (blue string which we no longer have today) a person is permitted to wear that garment.
c.    Sa’ir a Azazel- The he-goat offering to Azazel is sent to death during the Yom Kippur services in order to act as an atonement for Bnai Israel’s sins; however, the person who performs the sacrifice becomes impure.
d.    Para Aduma- the red heifer is burned and its ashes are sprinkled onto a Jew who is considered ritually impure, in order to purify him; however, any person who is involves with preparation of the ashes becomes impure.          
Because all these chokim defy our logical rational and they are beyond our human intellect, the Torah states, “These are the chokim of the Torah” (19:2), nevertheless we must accept them as Divinely given. Chokim were not given to us to be understood, they are beyond human comprehension.  Moreover, many chokim seem contradictory (as seen from the above examples). Nevertheless, the Jewish people have been steadfast in observing these incomprehensible chokim for thousands of years. Moreover, those who follow the chokim, despite failure to understand them see the utter brilliance in the Creators mysterious ways.

King Shlomo, the wisest man of all time, spent a great deal of time trying to make some sense of the chokim. Although he possessed more knowledge of the Torah than even Moshe Rabbenu, even he could not make sense of some of the chokim, such as Para Aduma- the red heifer. King Shlomo said, “I studied it and toiled to understand it, but it is far beyond my grasp.”

Furthermore, if a man like King Shlomo whose Torah wisdom surpassed that of Moshe, who wrote three holy books with ruach hakodesh- Divine inspiration-(Mishlai, Kohelet, and Shir Ha Shirim), who was able to illustrate the Torah through 3000 parables,  who was competent in every science, who surpassed Adam’s knowledge of animals, exceeded Avraham’s astrological knowledge, and outshone Yosef’s statesmanship, was incapable of comprehending many chokim, but nevertheless followed them with his entire heart, what gives us the right to deny their validity?

How are we expected to understand the mysteries of the Creator of the Universe? Moreover, how improper of us to even question the logical validity of Hashem’s ordinances. Hashem created us all with a logical and rational mind; anything that questions our logic therefore seems incorrect. However, we must constantly remind ourselves that Hashem is outside the realm of logical and rational reasoning, which we are imprisoned by. Our mission in life is to rise above our logical intellect and see how there is utter Divinity in that which is beyond logic. Through that, we can then full heartedly commit to following Hashem’s chokim and accept the fact that indeed our knowledge can never reach that of our Great King. Just as King Shlomo firmly accepted the Divinity and majesty of the chokim, this should push us to see how dynamic Hashem’s ordinances truly are.

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