Illuminations #37, Tammuz 5775, Parshat Chukat

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Illuminations #37, Tammuz 5775, Parshat Chukat

Torah Gems

In this week’s parsha the Torah teaches us about the mitzvah of Para Aduma. The Torah calls this mitzvah a חק, meaning we do not understand the reason for the mitzvah but we observe it because it is a commandment from Hashem. While discussing this חק the פסוק says

באהל ימות כי אדם התורה זאת

The simple meaning of this verse is when a person dies in a tent, the tent and everything within it becomes contaminated. However the גמרא tells us that the פסוק is teaching us something much deeper. It is teaching us that Torah will never remain within a person unless he “kills” himself over it. This means that a person must be completely devoted to Torah in order for it to remain within him.

Rav Shmuel Berenbaum, zt”, asks why is this called a חק? It seems to be a fairly easy concept to understand. If a person devotes himself entirely to Torah it will remain within him, similar to a sports athlete that is only successful if he spends all his time practicing and devoting himself to his sport.

Rav Shmuel explains that in reality Torah is something that is completely beyond the human intellect. So no matter how hard a person tries, he cannot understand it. It is comparable to a person trying to push a train without an engine. The only way we can understand Torah is because Hashem gave us an “engine” to be able to understand the Torah. But it is not coming from our own intellectual capabilities.

So now we can understand why it is a חק. Though Hashem gave us an “engine” to understand the Torah, effort seemingly does not make a difference in our understanding. Yet there is a mitzvah to “kill” ourselves over it. From here we can learn the extreme importance of toiling over Torah. Even though seemingly a person should not need any effort, Hashem made it that in order to acquire the Torah a person has to put in relentless effort.

Parsha Pearls

In this week’s parsha the Torah tells of us Aharon Hakohein’s passing. Rashi comments that at first Klal Yisroel did not believe Aharon, who was able to fight a malach and stop a plague, was able to be overcome by the malach hamaves. Moshe Rabeinu begged for mercy and Klal Yisroel was able to see Aharon in bed in shamayim. This proved that Aharon had indeed been niftar. This proof of someone in bed in shamayim had been shown to Klal Yisroel before. By the cheit haegel, the satan showed Klal Yisroel that Moshe was in bed in shamayim so Klal Yisroel tried to create a golden calf as an intermediary between them and Hashem.

One may wonder what was different about these two proofs. Moshe in bed, Klal Yisroel later learned, was not true. So why should they believe it this time?

Rav Yeruchem Kaplan explains that seeing someone in bed in shamayim is a very good proof of a person dying. However by Moshe, Klal Yisroel knew that Moshe told them he would be back in 40 days. Therefore the emunah they were supposed to have was that Moshe would come back, no matter what they saw or how big the proof to the contrary. But by Aharon there was no emunah that required them to believe that Aharon had not died. Therefore they were able to rely on the proof that Aharon had been niftar.  From here we can learn to what extent emunah is supposed to guide us. No matter how many proofs or how “clear” something seems to be prove otherwise we can know for sure that if the Torah says something it is true.

Glimpses of Greatness

One shabbos the Kopicznitzer Rebbe, Rav Avraham Yehoshua Heschel, passed two Jews smoking on East Broadway. He stopped and said, “Can I ask you a question?” They nodded. He asked, “Why would two special Jews be smoking on shabbos, a very special day?” They brazenly responded, “Mind your own business.” Determined, Rav Avraham Yehoshua then asked, “Can I ask you another question?” Bewildered they nodded again. “If one of these cars whizzing by hit a man, would you go help?” They answered: “Of course! The man would be lying in the street bleeding!” So Rav Avraham Yehoshua asked, “How can you blame me for stopping to help two souls I see bleeding out on the street?” The men threw away their cigarettes and promised not to smoke on shabbos again.

Halacha Weekly

Q. What is the Halacha regarding discarding Hebrew letters written in K’Tav Ashurit (Script of Torah Scrolls) versus Modern Hebrew Script or other scripts, and/or script in an electronic form such as a CD?

A. First of all, anything that is written in Hebrew or any other language AND contains Divrei Torah needs to be buried as a holy article (the term referred to in Hebrew for this is G’nizah). Anything that is written in K’tav Ashurit (the aleph bet in which a Sefer Torah is written) needs to be buried the same way, even though the contents do not contain Divrei Torah.

Therefore, wedding invitations that are written in K’tav Ashurit should not be discarded into the garbage.  As far as K’tav Rashi (Rashi style letters) and today’s modern writing, one is permitted to discard this writing in the garbage as long as there are no Divrei Torah in their contents.

Also, one is permitted to erase the contents of a tape or disk, even if Hashem’s Name is recorded.