Rabbi Krakowski On Parshas Chukas

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krakowskiBy Rabbi Y.Dov Krakowski

This week’s Sedra opens with the words “this is the statute of the Torah”. This statement is really meant to be a prelude to the Parsha of the Parah-Adumah (red calf). The Parah-Adumah was to be used in order to purify Klal-Yisroel after being contaminated by the corpse of a Jew. There is a lot of attention given to the fact that the Torah seems to single out this particular Mitzva as being the statute of the Torah to the exclusion of all other statutes.

Aside from the implications that “this” is the statute of the Torah it is a bit unclear what exactly is included as part of this statute and what are just related auxiliary laws. While traditionally this declaration is considered to be referring to the actual Parah-Adumah and its purification waters, at face value it would seem to be a form of introduction to the entire Parsha of Tumah and Taharah that is about to be discussed. The Torah doesn’t merely discuss what to do when someone has been contaminated but rather the Torah explains exactly what being contaminated entails. The Torah discusses how one contracts Tumah, its level of severity, what one must do while being Tamai, and finally the process of purification.

Although it does seem that the Torah is providing this passage of “this ” being the Chok (statute) of the Torah by way of introduction, it seems a bit problematical to attach a passage that seems so particular to such a general topic.

The Ohr-HaChaim Hakadosh seems to take the aforementioned approach. The Ohr -HaChaim says that this Passuk refers to the entire idea of contracting Tumah and the purification process thereof. The reason the Torah singles out this Chok as being the statute of the Torah, explains the Ohr-HaChaim, is that there is a great similarity between Torah and Tumah, and in fact this commonality is due to their close relationship with one another. The Ohr-HaChaim explains: Tumah and Taharah are ideas that are pertinent to Jews alone. To a gentile they have no relevance. A Jew’s only difference (a great one at that) from a gentile is the fact that he has the Torah. Am-Yisroel is different from the other nations because Am-Yisroel has a Torah that it keeps and the other nations don’t. Therefore the Ohr-HaChaim explains the correlation between Torah and Tumah with the following analogy: if one has two vessels that were emptied, one that contained honey and the other which had contained excrement. The one that had contained honey will attract far more flies then the other. Says the Ohr-HaChaim that so too is a Torah Jew. A Torah Jew since he was filled with better elements will attract more of the negative elements once those better elements have been separated from their host vessel (in this case the human body). Just like flies, the negative elements like to be able to feast on whatever traces of goodness and holiness that might be left behind.

While the Ohr-Hachaim’s approach is very nice and deep it doesn’t seem to answer our above raised technical questions. Perhaps we can reconcile our issues and still apply the Ohr-HaChaim Hakadosh.

True the Torah seems to be referring to something very particular when it says “this” is the Chok of the Torah, and true the whole of Tumah and Taharah seems to be not a narrow subject, but a rather broad one.  Perhaps, however, the whole subject of Tumah and Taharah is not as broad a topic as it seems.  When we now apply the Ohr-HaChaim’s approach, it would seem that Tumah is something that just happens to occur upon the emptying of a physical object of its spiritual and holy counterparts just like flies being attracted to some sort of good food.  Strictly speaking, therefore, the Torah in essence does not need to tell us of the idea of Tumah. When the Torah does tell us the idea of Tumah it is only in the context of explaining to us how to rid ourselves from this contamination called Tumah. Hence the whole Parsha of Tumah and Taharah is all the same and it is here in its entirety only in the form of a prelude to the purification waters of the Parah-Adumah. Therefore, just as the Ohr-HaChaim Hakadosh had suggested, the reason that the Torah so explicitly says “this” is the statute of the Torah is in order to bring out the idea that Klal-Yisroel is susceptible to contracting Tumah contamination because Klal-Yisroel is special and has the Torah.

Am-Yisroel is special – we have the Torah – but along with this specialness comes the desire of lesser and negative elements wishing to have a connection to us. It is from these associations that we must keep ourselves. We must remain away from their reaches. For if the lesser elements aren’t willing to raise themselves then in essence their intent is to lower us, causing us to be no different from them. Were that to be the case, Klal-Yisroel would cease to be different and thus cease to exist. We must always lift ourselves up to be the Am-Hashem, and a Mamleches Kohanim for the other nations.

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