Friday, July 1, 2011

Parasha Chukas

"Edom refused to permit Israel to pass through his border, and Israel turned away from him." (Numbers 20:21)

On Thursday, July 19, 2011, we observe the fast of the seventeenth of the Hebrew month of Tamuz, which begins at dawn and ends when the stars come out. This fast begins the three week period of mourning, which culminates with the fast of the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, Tishah B'Av

During this three week period we mourn the destruction of the first and second Temples and the countless other tragedies throughout Jewish history. In our state of mourning, we don't listen to music, perform weddings, or take haircuts. These observances help to repair the spiritual damage that brought about these tragedies, and they help to bring about the coming of the Messiah and the rebuilding of the Temple. [How these observances actually accomplish these things is beyond the scope of this sheet.]

The following events are mentioned in our parasha: 1) In order to provide water to the thirsty nation in the desert, Moshe (Moses) and his brother Aharon (Aaron) were commanded by Hashem to miraculously extract water from a rock by speaking to it. The Jews panicked at the thought of dying of thirst, and as a result, bitterly complained against them. Feeling the tremedous pressure from the people, Moshe and Aharon erred when Moshe hit the rock instead of speaking to it, violating Hashem's command. For this, both of them were punished by having to forfeit the privilege of entering into the land of Israel. 

2) The account of the death of Aharon and his final resting place. 3) Desiring to reach the land of Israel more quickly, the Jews requested the right of passage through the territories of Edom and Moab. Edom and Moab both denied the request. 4) The parasha ends with the account of Jews' conquering the two mightiest kings in the entire region, Sichon and Og. What do all these fragmented events have in common that they were placed all together in the same parasha? What connection do these events have with the three weeks of mourning over the destruction of the Temple? 

In the following paragraphs, based on the teachings of Rabbi Nachman and his student Rav Noson let us examine these episodes more closely, and piece together these seemingly unrelated fragments.

Torah: the Foundation of the Forces of Nature

Corresponding to His four lettered Name, Hashem created the world with four basic elements, water, fire, air, and earth. These elements are all in competition with each other. If Hashem wouldn't have set these elements within predetermined boundaries, the world could not exist. [For example, it is only Hashem's will that prevents the sea from flooding the earth.]

With great precision, Hashem regulates the interrelationships between all of the physical elements and the forces of nature so that the world can exist. Imperfect man cannot do this, but can very easily throw off the delicate balance of nature by favoring one element over another. [For example, over-irrigating a field could cause land erosion. In this case man causes the element of water to overwhelm the element of earth.]

Since Hashem placed His will and intellect within the Torah, Torah is the only true guide to regulate the delicate balance between all of the opposing forces of the cosmos, as the verse says, "A river issues forth from Eden to water the garden, and from there it is divided and becomes four heads." (Genesis 2:10)

The holy Zohar says that "river issues forth from Eden" refers to the spiritual waters of the Torah, which nourish the world, just as water sustains vegetation. "From there it is divided and becomes four heads", refers to the four basic elements. Thus, this verse tells us that the light of the Torah is the foundation upon which all of forces of nature are dependent.

The Divine intellect knows exactly how to regulate all of the world's functions to maintain peace throughout the creation. The Torah contains this Divine intellect as expressed through its teachings, laws, rituals, and commandments. This is why proper adherence to the Torah, as intended by Hashem, is able to regulate, balance and make peace between the physical and spiritual realms, between all the forces of nature, and in human relationships, as the verse says, "All its (the Torah's) paths are peace." (Proverbs 3:18)


This Dvar Torah is dedicated to the recovery of AndrĂ©e bath Hadassah.  

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