Parshat Chukat 5773–Shabbat Torah Study– Faith vs. Reason

This week’s Parasha contains the description of the ultimate Choke (pronounced like the sound made when choking, God forbid.) The Torah distinguishes between three types of Mitzvot: Edot = testimonies, Mishpatim = ordinances, and Chukim = decrees. Chukim are the mitzvot which cannot be understood by ordinary human intellect, such as the dietary laws (kashrut), not wearing wool and linen together (shatnez), the suspected spouse (sotah) and the very mysterious ritual of the red heifer contained in this week’s Parasha. They are God’s edicts. We may attribute reasons and understandings, but there are none given. Though we may question and debate them and we are encouraged to do so, there is an expectation in the Torah that they be followed irrespective of the reason.

On Shavuot we read of the revelation at Sinai and we said—Na’aseh v’nishma. We will act first and ask questions later. It is a major test of our faith to perform ritual acts that we don’t fully or even partially understand because we may not have learned about them. It is an even greater test of our faith if we are called upon to perform ritual acts that are not cable of being understood with certainty even after lifelong study. It is only faith that drives that behavior. Might that be the message and purpose of the chukim?

This Shabbat, we learn with Rabbi Aaron Bergman who is planning to teach on a subject that some find difficult—facing the inevitability of loss with courage. In this week’s Parasha, we read of the loss of Miriam and Aaron. What in the Torah is a lesson for all time? 10:00 a.m. (probably in the chapel—look for the sign).
Hope to see you there.
Shabbat shalom,
Paul

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