Illuminations #166, Tammuz, 5778, Parshat Chukat

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Illuminations #166, Tammuz, 5778, Parshat Chukat

Torah Gems

In this week’s Parasha we find the commandment of the Parah Adumah (Red heifer). The ashes of the perfectly red cow would be to purify those who were contaminated. Rashi explains that the Evil Inclination and the nations of the world would try to mitigate this mitzvah by asking what the reason for the commandment was. Hashem answered that it is a chok, a commandment decreed Up Above and you can’t ask why we do it.


We find that this concept of Chok is not just here. It also applies to the laws of Shaatnez and other commandments. If so, why did the Evil Inclination and the nations of the world choose to question this commandment of Parah Aduma and no other chok commandment? Rabbi Yechiel Mechel Rabinowitz, known as the Maggid of Zlotchov, answers that this commandment was specifically enacted to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. By starting up with the commandment, the Evil Inclination is trying to remind Hashem of those dark days and not allow His mercy to come forth. Because their question was not a real question but rather to provoke, Hashem said it is a chok and they do not need to be answered. We should take a lesson from this and remember that when we have questions we should ask ourselves, are we looking for an answer or an excuse for getting out of what we need to do?

Parsha Pearls

When Og the King of Bashan went to wage war against the Jews, Hashem told Moshe not to be afraid. Why would Moshe be afraid of Og more than others, where we do not find that Moshe was afraid? The Gemara tells us Og was the one who told Avraham that Lot had been captured. With this, Avraham was able to rescue Lot and save his life. Not only this, Tosafos adds that Og only did it in order to have Avraham killed in the war so he would be able to marry Sarah. Moshe was still afraid of this one merit that Og had. We see that one merit not done with proper intentions can carry so much weight. Imagine the chance we have every day to do many, many mitzvot (Tzitzit, Tefillin, Torah). How great the reward must be. Who would pass up such a good deal? Let’s take advantage of the great opportunity and reap the benefits forever.

Glimpses of Greatness

The Vilna Gaon knew a lot of Torah from the time that he was a small child. When he reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, he had a vaster knowledge of Torah than many men his senior. The Vilna Gaon used his knowledge to help many people understand parts of the Torah that were hard for them. He was beloved by his community, and at the same time wanted to leave Vilna to go to Eretz Yisrael. One day, he did set out to make the move, only to return because the ship could not sail through a sudden storm. The Vilna Gaon took this as a sign that Hashem wanted him in Vilna and he decided to stay there. He continued to grow in his learning and mitzvah observance. As he did so, his holiness became apparent on his face. It is told that one time, bad men tried to kidnap a Jewish child and hurt him. The Vilna Gaon tried to rescue the boy while adorning his tallis and tefillin. When the kidnappers looked at the Vilna Gaon and saw his holy face, they fled. The boy was saved.


Halacha Weekly

Q. Is it permitted for a man to shave excess facial hair ?[1-YD12-288]

A. Avneh Yishafeh (4-91 , R. Yisrael Pesach Friedhandler, Z”L) writes about a situation where a man has hair between his eyebrows and shaves it, or on his hands and shaves it. Is there a prohibition involved of lo Yilbosh gever simlat Ishah (that a man should not wear the clothing of a woman)? Is it permitted for him to shave the hairs? He rules that there is no concern in this case  of there being a prohibition of lo Yilbosh gever simlat Ishah.

Similarly, Birchat Yehudah (2-9 YD, R. Aryeh Lev Baron Z”L) and Nishmat Avraham (Mahadurah Chadashah YD 182), in the name of R. Shlomo Zalman Auerbach Z”L, permits an unmarried man that has hair between his eyebrow to remove the hairs  because it is a physical defect  and there is no concern in this case [as well] of lo yilbosh gever  simlat Ishah.  See also Shevet Hakehati (1-231, R. Shamai Hakehat R. Shammai Kehat GrossZ”Lwho explains that it is prohibited to remove the white from the dark hairs [which is the practice of women when removing excess hair], rather to shave all the hairs at once [is the proper way for a man to shave.]