Illuminations #82, Tammuz 5776, Parshat Chukat

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Illuminations #82, Tammuz 5776, Parshat Chukat

Torah Gems

Regarding the mitzvah of parah aduma, the red heifer which purifies a person who has been contaminated by having contact with a corpse, the Torah states, “And they shall take for the defiled person some of the ashes….” (Bamidbar 19:17)

Our Sages tell us that it was in the merit of Avraham Avinu that Hashem gave us this mitzvah. When Avraham spoke to Hashem, he said, “Behold, now I have taken upon myself to speak to Hashem; who am I but dust and ashes?” (Bereishis 18:27) The midrash teaches: “Hakadosh Boruch Hu said to him: You said, ‘I am but dust and ashes.’ By your life, I will give your children atonement with ashes, as it states, “And they shall take for the defiled person some ashes….'” (Bereishis Rabbah 49:11)

Yet it is hard to understand why Hashem gave such a reward to Avraham’s statement, “I am but dust and ashes.” After all, it is common knowledge that, “Man is composed of dust, and to the dust he shall return.”

The answer is that there are two types of knowledge: superficial and profound. Superficial knowledge is intellectual comprehension. Profound knowledge is manifest when the heart feels what the mind knows. Superficial knowledge is not genuine knowledge because the concept does not penetrate one’s core being, nor does it affect one’s behavior. Conversely, profound knowledge is true knowledge because it rings true in one’s very soul.

Indeed, the difference between superficial knowledge and profound knowledge may be likened to two men, one who can see and one who is blind. One who has only superficial knowledge is devoid of knowledge just as a blind man is devoid of sight!

Now we can understand why Hashem granted such merit to Avraham’s declaration, “I am but dust and earth.” These were no mere words. The truth of these words was felt deeply in Avraham’s heart and soul. His conviction that he was but dust and earth resonated in his entire being. The true intensity of his sincere humility awakened the merit of the great purification of the parah aduma.

Parsha Pearls

The Alter of Kelm raises the following question. There are two categories of mitzvos: mishpatim, whose purpose is revealed, and chukim, whose purpose is concealed. Why is there not a unity of mitzvos? Let the purpose of all mitzvos be either revealed or concealed.

Mishpatim may also be divided into two classifications: mitzvos that instruct to oversee the spiritual welfare of others, and mitzvos that instruct us to care for the material welfare of others. There is only one mitzvah that instructs us to look after the spiritual welfare of others – the mitzvah to admonish someone who needs spiritual correction.

On the other hand, there are numerous mitzvos instructing us to care for the material needs of others. For instance, to perform acts of loving-kindness, to give charity, to loan money, to be hospitable, to speak pleasantly, to greet others with cheerfulness, etc. The dramatic proliferation of mitzvos that pertain to the physical conveys a powerful lesson. It is human nature to withhold from giving to others. Therefore, in the guise of religiosity, there is a tendency to provide only for the spiritual needs of others. Since spiritual benefit is intangible, the giver feels he is not really losing anything by giving.

The benefit of a material gift is visceral and immediate, and so human nature balks at providing others with their material needs. In light of this, the Torah emphasizes the importance of providing material benefits. The message of the Torah is: If you truly love someone, you will care for his material welfare just as much as you are concerned with his spiritual welfare.

The Torah anticipated that perhaps man will question whether Hashem truly loves us or is concerned only with the spiritual part of our being. In response to this, the Torah is comprised of mishpatim, which show us that Hashem cares about our physical needs, and chukim, which show that even the mishpatim have hidden spiritual purposes. There is no greater joy than internalizing that Hashem truly loves us. He cares about our bodily needs as much as He cares for our soul.

Glimpses of Greatness

A rav who had been designated as mesader kiddushin at a wedding was shocked when he saw Reb Moshe there. The rav could not imagine how he could officiate in the presence of the Rosh Yeshivah. He inquired of the father, ” How could you ask me to officiate when you knew Reb Moshe was coming to the wedding?” The father replied honestly that he was unaware that Reb Moshe was going to attend and, in fact, was still not sure why he had come. The rav then asked Reb Moshe why he had come. “This morning,” Reb Moshe said, “in the elevator of my apartment building I met a neighbor who told me that his granddaughter was getting married tonight and it would mean a lot to him if I would attend. That is why I am here.”


Halacha Weekly

Q. Where Must One Be Standing In Order To Say Kiddush Levana (Blessing of the New Moon)?
A. One should not say the blessing on the new moon by looking through a glass window. One must be standing outside  in order to see the moon without obstruction. However, if one is sick and cannot go outside, in that situation one may make the blessing by looking through a glass window.
One should not stand under the overhang of a porch when reciting the blessing of the moon. He has to be completely standing outside under the sky for the blessing on the moon. Only at the time that one makes the blessing should one briefly look at the moon and then make the blessing on the moon. One is not permitted to stare at the moon at any time.
According to Sephardim, the time for the blessing of the moon is the seventh day from the nolad (from the first appearance of the moon). For Ashkenazim, the time is three days after the nolad.  One should try to say the blessing on the moon with at least two other people in order to say Shalom Alechem to each other.