Questions and Concepts for Parsha Chukat
(Numbers 19:1 - 22:1)
  1. The Parsha title "Chukat" comes from a word for a Divine ordinance that has no "rational" explanation. (As opposed to Eidot/Testimonies and Mishpatim/Laws, that can be sensibly understood.) Within the category of Chukim (plural) are two levels; 1) those decrees that could in principle be understood by human intelligence, but details of which are beyond comprehension, and 2) those which are entirely beyond the scope of human understanding. The law of the Red Heifer is alone in belonging to the second category. Even Solomon, who possessed great wisdom, said that the only part of God’s Torah that he could not explain were the commands concerning the red heifer.
  2. The Chukim, Eidot and Mishpatim are not presented as distinct and separate in the Torah – they are dispersed throughout. God demands observance of and total commitment to all parts of His Torah, as the Torah is One (Ya’akov ["James"] 2:10.)
  3. As opposed to the Chukim, many commandments are open to human understanding. How might the more "understandable" commandments allow for those who do not follow Torah to challenge their Divine origin? How do they even allow our own yetzer hara (evil inclination) to do the same? Are the Chukim (which includes the laws of unclean food), therefore at an even "higher level of faith?"
  4. How would speaking to the rock teach the Jewish people to use their spiritual abilities to accomplish physical goals? What was the difference between striking and speaking to the rock, in terms of involvement at the physical level versus at the level of the soul? How would the latter be a greater miracle than the former?
  5. How would the miracle of speaking to the rock have helped bring the people to a higher level of spirituality/holiness? How is this concept related to that of "sanctifying the Name of God?" How might this be compare to us learning to speak to "THE ROCK?" How does "spiritual stagnation" in fact cause us to move "backward" spiritually? (See the book of Hebrews where this idea is alluded to several times.)
  6. The Torah shows that when Miriam died, the well of water dried up. Miriam was what is known as a Tzaddik, "a righteous person" through whom other are blessed. Why might it benefit us to seek out such Tzaddikim and associate with them? Compare this to last week’s Parsha, where those of the tribe of Reuben associated themselves with Korach.
  7. The Talmud thus states: "The water was in the merit of Miriam, the manna was in the merit of Moses, and the Clouds of Glory were in the merit of Aaron. Therefore, when the water stopped at the death of Miriam, it later returned in the merit of Moses and Aaron. When Aaron died, the clouds left and returned in the merit of Moses. And when Moses died, they all ceased."
  8. Consider this concept:
    The people in the wilderness complained about the manna and the water. In the Gospels and Epistles, Yeshua is compared to the manna and the water. God sent "fiery serpents" to afflict the people. He then gave Moses the curious instruction of placing a "serpent" on a stick for people to look upon in order to escape the punishment. Yeshua directly compares His coming to earth and being "lifted up" to the actions of Moses lifting up the saraph/sepent on the stick (John 3:14). When God first gives Moses this instruction (21:8), the term found in the Hebrew text (translated "serpent") is Saraph, a type of angel. Moses makes a physical representation of the Saraph in the form of a copper serpent. The word for serpent (nachash), is spelled Nun-Chet-Shin. The word for copper comes from the same three-letter root and is spelled Nun-Chet-Shin-Tav. In Hebraic studies an important point is made that the gematria (numerical value) of Mashiach (Messiah) and nachash (serpent) are both 358. When words have the same numerical value they are related in essence, even if diametrically opposed on the surface. In this sense, the yetzer hara (evil inclination) that came with the fall of Adam (linked to the serpent) will be transormed by the Messiah into a force which does good for God.