Parshas Chukas: Selfless Dedication

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By Rabbi Naftoly Bier

The Torah says (במדבר י”ט:ב, Numbers 19:2), “זאת חקת התורה, This is the decree of the Torah which Hashem has commanded…” The Torah continues to inform us of the purification process that one who has become spiritually impure due to becoming in contact with a corpse, or entering specific places where a corpse is located, undergoes.

The question that is asked is why does the Torah specifically in this case refer to the “decree” as a decree of the Torah, as if it includes all of the Torah’s teachings?

The אור החיים offers two answers: Due to the gift of Torah that raises כלל ישראל to a elevated level of קדושה higher than a non-Jew; therefore we are more prone to טומאה – therefore the Torah states “This is the decree of the Torah… due to your Torah you need the מצות that enable one to purify oneself.

The second answer is; that if one participates in the מצוה of the פרה אדומה, despite that we can’t fathom the logic behind it; the Torah defines our action as one that defines our total dedication to all of Torah. For if one doesn’t comprehend whatsoever one’s action, one is demonstrating total submission to Hashem, declaring in effect I am totally embracing my Creator’s will in every aspect of my life.

A person can act in one of two ways; understanding the positive ramifications of their action and taking pride that one has acted in a rational, productive manner. In contrast one can selflessly surrender to the wisdom of Hashem.

It follows that if one for example doesn’t want to drink or eat blood due to it being repulsive, one is not fulfilling the מצוה, directive of Hashem as not to eat it; for one isn’t taking Hashem into account but has made the decision decisively on their own.

The רמב”ם, Maimonides, rules הל’ מלכים ח:י”א, “If one who is a non-Jew accepts the seven Noahide laws because the Almighty has commanded them, then one is considered from the righteous people and has a share in the World to Come. This is all provided if one doesn’t do it due to one philosophically deems it correct, but rather due to submitting oneself to the Almighty. Despite one’s adherence to the “rules”, there is no connection to one’s Creator!

The רמב”ם, Maimonides, in the שמונה פרקים, poses as to which group is more exemplary and in turn praiseworthy. Is it one who has a strong desire to commit sins, but suppresses it due to the Torah’s admonition or is it one who has no craving to sin? He answers that ר’ אלעזר בן עזריא taught, a person shouldn’t say I can’t eat non-kosher but rather should exclaim, I would enjoy to eat it but what can I do, the Torah prohibits! This idea only applies to personal desires, but if one has a yearning for theft, cheating, dishonesty, then one is lacking in a normal, intuitive manner in which one must conduct oneself.

The Alshich, אלשיך הקדוש explains the mistake that משה רבינו committed when he hit the rock to draw water rather than speaking to it as Hashem commanded.

He was afraid that if he did as told, the people would not consider it a gift from Hashem, but rather due to Moshe Rabbeinu’s expertise and experience of pasturing flocks of sheep in the desert; he could recognize a well from which to draw water. He therefore considered it worthwhile – and necessary – to be challenged by the people if its possible for him to draw water from a specific rock that they would choose. Rather than speaking to it, he hit it, exclaiming that it is Hashem who is causing a miracle to happen.

His mistake was that he made his own judgment as to what would engender a greater sanctification of Hashem – a person who is an עבד ה, who subjugates oneself absolutely to Hashem, will not make their own “judgment call”, but will strictly follow the will of Hashem.

The Torah both in Deuteronomy 4:2 and 13:1 prohibits one to either add to or subtract from the 613 commandments. In both places it first states the prohibition of adding. One would have argued that to detract is an open rebellion against the Torah while adding is one’s personal quest to be even more spiritual.

The answer is the opposite – one who needs to add is in effect, stating that though G-d in His infinite wisdom teaches us the one can become a complete person with the 613 mitzvahs, one is saying that “I know better, I don’t understand how I can do without an added mitzvah!”

That is the grave mistake! We accept all the mitzvahs for we unequivocally state Hashem knows – “נעשה, we will do His will, for He perfectly created us and He therefore gave us the perfect manual for living.”

Twice in שחרית, the morning prayers, we ask according to some, that Hashem ensure that we do the מצות not to draw attention to oneself, but rather to do them solely in honor of Hashem; negating all our self-interests and desires.

In the blessing of אהבה רבה, before the reciting of the שמע, we ask ותן בלבנו להבין…ולקיים, may You instill in our hearts to understand, elucidate, listen, learn, teach, safeguard, perform and fulfill all the words of Your Torah’s teaching with love. What does ולקיים , fulfill add to לעשות , to perform? The כתב וקבלה explains that we are asking that when we do all Hashem’s mitzvahs it should be totally with no self-interest for recognition, glory, or attention.

In ובא לציון after articulating the קדושה we say a verse from דברי הימים א:כ”ט-מ, “i…שמרה זאת לעולם… May Hashem help us direct all our actions totally for Him, for His honor and not draw attention to ourselves, in the merit of saying קדושה.”

This is זאת חוקת התורה, it is all about Hashem, not about us! Complete submission in total appreciation for all the infinite gifts He bestows on us every minute!

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