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Parashat Hukat

Dedicated in honor of our son AJ Heffez’ Bar Mitzvah in Yerushaliyam. May Hashem Bless him with continued Torah, Health, and Success. Love Mom, Dad, Brenda and Rosie

Parashat Hukat

This weeks Parashah opens up with the laws of Parah Adumah, the Red Heifer (cow). This law of the Parah Adumah is a decree from Hashem that's well beyond human comprehension. This law is considered a Hok which is a law that Hashem has not revealed the reason to us. More than that, it's a paradox because the ashes of the Red Cow will purify anyone who has become contaminated by having contact with a dead body, yet those who engage in its preparation become themselves contaminated. It was regarding this aspect of its laws that King Solomon exclaimed in proverbs, "I said I would be wise, but its far from me". Rabbi Yohanan told his students regarding our failure to understand the laws of the Red Cow, "Its not the corpse that causes contamination or the ashes of the cow that cause purity. These laws are decrees from Hashem, and man has no right to question them". In other words, an essential component of wisdom is the knowledge that man's failure to understand the truth does not make it untrue!

There's a story in Masekhet Kidushin (31a), where the Rabbis wanted to a buy a stone for the ephod from a non-jew that would make him a great profit. But the key to the non-jew's safe was lying under his father's pillow while his father was sleeping and he would not disturb his father's sleep to get the key. The next year, Hashem blessed this non-jew again with the parah adumah in his herd. So the Rabbis went to him to purchase the parah adumah. He said to the Rabbis that I know that if I asked you for all the money in the world, you would give it to me. But I will only ask for the amount that I lost as a result from honoring my father last year. We learn from this, the reward that even a non-Jew receives in this world for the respect that he showed his father. How much more so of a reward will we receive as Jews, who are commanded from the Torah to respect our parents!

At this time and because of this story, there was a prosecution against the Jewish people because it was known that a goy was willing to lose so much money to respect his father which overshadowed B'nei Yisrael who were commanded to keep this mitzvah. On the contrary the mitzvah of the Parah Adumah shows the greatness of the Jewish people because they will spend such a large sum of money on such a mitzvah as Parah Adumah, that has no logical base to us. Other examples of this is the amount of money that we spend on an Etrog for Succot or Sh'mura Matzah on Pesach or for our tefilin etc. There's a famous story that Rabbi Diamond told us about the time that General Eisenhower visited the displacement camps after the United States liberated the Jews from the concentration camps after the Holocaust. He saw the Jewish people suffering from disease and malnutrition and asked them, "Pease tell me what can the US Government get for you. Please tell me what you need?" The Kleisenberg Rebbe was the spokesman for the people and said, "It's getting close to the time of our holiday of Sukkot, can you please get us Lulavim and Etrogim so we can do our Mitzvah?" The General was shocked at this request because he would have thought that they would ask for food, clothing or other basics to make them more comfortable...but a Jew needs his mitzvot to survive in this world and thats what connects us to Hashem which is the true life source of all Jews!

We also learn in this weeks Parashah about the reasons that Hashem didn't allow Moshe and Aharon to enter the land of Israel. We always learned that the reason that Moshe wasn't allowed to enter Israel was because he hit the rock, rather than speak to the rock, as Hashem commanded him to, but there's much more to it than that. At this time, Miriam had just passed away and B'nei Yisrael didn't mourn her properly. The water that flowed for B'nei Yisrael through their journeys in the desert to supply the people was a zechut for Miriam. The reason that Miriam had this zechut was from a 'midah keneged midah' from when she was a young girl when Moshe was born. Miriam watched over Moshe as a baby as she and her mother put him in a basket and placed that basket in the River as she followed it to make sure he ended up in good hands. So too, did the water follow her and watch over her when they sojourned in the desert for 40 years. But now that Miriam passed away and no tears were shed for her as they would for Moshe later on, Hashem held back their drinking water. Therefore B'nei Yisrael complained of having no water to drink and Hashem gave Moshe the instructions of how to bring water for the people by speaking to the rock. Moshe tried to speak to the rock at first but it didn't work, so he hit the rock.

It says in perek 20 pasuk 8, "Kah et Hamatteh"… "Take the staff and gather together the assembly, you and Aharon your brother, speak to the rock before their eyes that it shall give its waters". As he was commanded, Moshe took the staff and went with Aharon to summon the entire assembly and give them water in such a way that Hashem's name would be sanctified. Moshe succeeded in drawing forth water from a stone, but did not sanctify Hashem's name at least in the way and to the degree to which he had been commanded. The exact nature of this sin has puzzled the Rabbis and has been variously interpreted by the commentators. "Yaan lo he-emanetem bee" … "Because you did not believe in Me". Hashem wanted everyone to know that Moshe and Aharon were not implicated in the sin of the spies, and they would have entered the land had it not been for their error at the rock. If they would have continued to try and speak to the rock, water would have eventually come from the proper rock and Hashem's name would have been sanctified, and all of B'nei Yisrael would have drawn the intended lesson that "If a rock, which does not speak or hear, and doesn't need sustenance, listens to the word of Hashem then of course how much more of a lesson would that be for us to listen and follow the words of Hashem!"

Even Rambam comments that this is really beyond the scope of our comprehension and one of the great secrets of the Torah. Rashi's view is simply that Moshe sinned because he struck the rock, rather than speaking to it as Hashem commanded him to. He also states that Moshe sinned because he became angry at the people for demanding water. Rabenu Hananel, whose view is joined by Rambam says the key words are when Moshe asks the question in a rhetorical way, "Shall we bring forth water?" Implying that Moshe and Aharon have the power to bring water on their own. Rather Moshe should have said, "Shall Hashem bring you water?" So this is why Hashem said that they didn't sanctify Hashem's name.

Abarbanel agrees with Rashi that the immediate cause for the sin was hitting the Rock but he says that there's another reason. One reason is that Aharon had a hand in the sin of the golden calf which caused national suffering and was a sin that we continue to suffer from until this very day. Another reason is that Moshe sent the spies to check out the land whose false report brought the punishment of wandering through the desert for the next 40 years and the death of an entire generation. So for this reason, it would seem unfair that the nation would not enter the land. So Hashem chose to keep Moshe and Aharon from entering the land, just as the rest of the generation was not allowed since they were their leaders and were held responsible for the peoples actions.

There’s a famous story to show how as Jews, we are all responsible for each other. The story is about Howard Schultz the CEO of the Starbucks coffee shop chain who was on an Aish Hatorah trip to Israel with a contingent of American prominent businessmen. On one of their stops they were taken to visit Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel of the Mir Yeshiva in Israel. The Rabbi asked them, “Who can tell me the lesson of the Holocaust?” One person responded, “We will never forget” a second person answered, “We will never again be a bystander or a victim!” The Rabbi then answered, “You guys just don’t get it. Okay, gentlemen, let me tell you the essence of the human spirit.

“As you know, during the Holocaust, the people were transported in the worst possible, inhumane way – by railcar. They thought they were going to a work camp. We all know they were going to a death camp.

“After hours and hours in the inhumane corral with no light, no bathroom, cold, they arrived at the camps. The doors were swung wide open, and they were blinded by the light. Men were separated from women, mothers from daughters, fathers from sons. They went off to the bunkers to sleep.

“As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide: ‘Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?’”

And Rabbi Finkel says, “It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others.”

And with that, he stood up and said, “Take your blanket. Take it back to America and push it to five other people.”

When Howard Schultz left the Rabbi to go back to America, he was so moved by the meeting he had with Rav Nosson, he left a blank check with the Rabbi and told him to fill it out for any amount he wanted. The Rabbi who never solicited these wealthy men for donations to the Yeshiva, asked Mr Schultz, “Do you own a pair of Tefelin?” Mr Schultz answered “No”, the Rabbi told him to make the check out for $1000 which I will use to buy you a pair of Tefilin. It should be noted that the budget for the Mir Yeshiva was over $40 million a year and as Mr Schultz said to the Rabbi he could have written the check for any amount he wanted but Rav Nosson was teaching him the same lesson as they learned in the story he told them of the Holocaust. To share his belongings with others, which ironically happened to be the same way that Howard Schultz lived his own life and the way he ran his Starbucks coffee shop chain with thousands of employees.

May we all learn from this how important it is to respect our parents even for a mitzvah that we may not understand. May we also know that we were put in this world to follow the will of Hashem and to be an Eved Hashem. We will then be assured that we will always benefit by following and emulating the ways of Hashem by sharing what we have with others as we learned in the story from Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel and Howard Schultz.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey

Leiluiy Nishmat....

Eliyahu Ben Rachel Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher

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Yitzchak Ben Adele Avraham Ben Mazal

Chanah Bat Esthe Ovadia Ben Esther

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Meir Ben Latifa Moshe Ben Yael

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Yaakov Ben Leah

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