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Chukat 5775

Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Last week we completed the first section (The Nature of the Belief in God) of Maimonides' Thirteen Principles of Belief. As I mentioned, Rambam, Moses Maimonides (1135-1204), is well-known and revered by Jews across the board as a Jewish philosopher and scholar. He formulated "The 13 Principles of Jewish Belief" to clarify the essential beliefs of Judaism for the past 3,000 years. They are found in almost every prayer book.

Here is the second section: The Authenticity, Validity and Immutability of the Torah. Each principle begins with the words "I believe with complete belief..."

6)  That all the words of the prophets are true. (The words of the prophets are the words of God and, therefore, true and incumbent upon us).

7)  The prophecy of Moses our teacher was true and that he was the father of the prophets -- both those who preceded him and those who followed him. (Moses' prophecy was unique -- no other prophet could claim to supersede the prophecy of Moses).

8)  The entire Torah now in our hands is the same one that was given to Moses. (The whole Torah was dictated by God to Moses, word by word, letter by letter and it has not been changed, mutated, or edited).

9)  The Torah will not be exchanged nor will there be another Torah from the Creator. (The Written Law -- The Five Books of Moses, and the Oral Law -- the explanation of the Written Law, were given by God, Who is not a man who changes his mind. It was given once and no other book will replace it).

The third and final section of Maimonides Thirteen Principles of Belief is -- Man's Responsibility and Ultimate Reward. There are 4 principles in this section. Each principle begins with the words "I believe with complete belief..."

10)  The Creator knows all the deeds of human beings and their thoughts. (Man's individual deeds are important to God and so are the hopes and thoughts that drive him. He is aware of everything man thinks and does).

11)  The Creator rewards with good those who observe His commandments, and punishes those who violate His commandments. (No deed goes unrewarded or unpunished; one cannot cancel out a bad deed with a good one. Each is treated independently).

12)  ... in the coming of the Mashiach (Messiah), and even though he may delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come. (Every generation has within it the power to perfect the world and bring Mashiach; the world is our responsibility -- we must do our utmost to be righteous and do righteousness. If we do not succeed, eventually God will bring Mashiach and completion to our efforts. It is the duality of personal responsibility and trust in God which has led the Jewish people to so much accomplishment and has kept us sane throughout the persecutions of history.)

13)  ... that there will be a resuscitation of the dead whenever the will emanates from the Creator. (The dead will live again in the Messianic era, when the world will attain a new spiritual and physical level of perfection.)

I know that some of the principles of belief seem strange or different than you have ever learned growing up. Personally, until I was 22 years old I never met a Jew who knew that the Jews believe in a World to Come, a heaven and a hell. Very few people enjoy having their belief system challenged or questioned, but belief is based on information, not emotion. The more information one has, the better decisions he can make in life.

If you found the 13 Principles fascinating, perplexing or disconcerting, I highly recommend reading Fundamentals and Faith by Rabbi Yakov Weinberg and/or Maimonides' Principles -- The Fundamentals of Jewish Faith by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. Both are available at your local Jewish bookstore, at or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.


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Torah Portion of the week

Chukas, Numbers 19:1 - 22:1

Another week of action, adventure and mystery as the Jewish people wander the desert in their 38th year. First, the laws of the red heifer (Parah Adumah) which was burnt with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet thread. The ashes were then used in a purification ceremony for those who had come in contact with the dead. Strangely enough, all who were involved in the making of the ashes became ritually impure, but all who were sprinkled with them became ritually pure. It is a lesson that we must do the commandments even if we can't understand them. God decreed the commandments. They are for our benefit. We may not always know why.

Miriam, Moshe's sister and a prophetess, dies. The portable well which had accompanied the Israelites on her merit, ceased to flow. Once again the people rebelled against Moshe and Aharon because of the lack of water. The Almighty tells Moshe to speak to the rock for water. Moshe gets angry and hits the rock and water rushes forth. However, the Almighty punishes Moshe and Aharon for not sanctifying Him by forbidding their entry into the land of Israel. (It pays to follow instructions and to withhold anger!)

Aharon dies. His son, Elazar, is appointed the new High Priest. The Canaanite king of Arad attacks the Israelites and later is soundly defeated. Then there is another rebellion over the food and water which is answered by a plague of poisonous snakes. Moshe prays for the people and is instructed by God to put the image of a snake on a high pole. All who saw it would think of God, repent and live.

The Israelites then annihilate the Amorites and Bashanites who not only would not let us pass peacefully through their lands, but attacked us. There are many questions which need to be asked. Please consult the original work and a good commentary.

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

Regarding the mitzvah of the red-heifer, the Torah states:

"This is the decree of the Torah (Numbers 19:2).

Why is this mitzvah referred to as "the decree of the Torah" as though it encompassed the entire Torah?

Rashi states that the reason for the mitzvah of the red-heifer is beyond our understanding, yet cites a reason for the red-heifer as being a sin offering to attain forgiveness for the worship of the Golden Calf. Is this not contradictory?

The mitzvos of the Torah are to be observed as Divine decrees. We can apply human reasoning in an attempt to understand and benefit from the mitzvos. However, we must observe them because they are the will of God.

The worship of the Golden Calf was the outcome of the misapplication of human logic. Moses had said that he would return at the end of forty days. When he did not return at the precise moment he was expected, some people argued that Moses must surely have died. Logic dictates that no mortal can survive forty days without nourishment. It was this fallacious conclusion that led to the Golden Calf debacle.

The mitzvah of the red-heifer, precisely because if is beyond human understanding, is the rectification of the error that led to the worship of the Golden Calf. Rashi is, therefore, not contradictory. Yes, the reason for the red heifer is unknown, and yes, the very fact that we observe mitzvos that are beyond our understanding constitutes a rectification of the sin of the Golden Calf.

The mitzvah of the red-heifer is thus appropriately referred to as "the decree of the Torah." Its principles applies to the entire Torah. Whether or not we have a logical grasp of any of the mitzvos, they are to be observed as Divine decrees.


Candle Lighting Times

June 26
(or go to

Jerusalem 7:13
Guatemala 6:15 - Hong Kong 6:51 - Honolulu 6:58
J'Burg 5:06 - London 9:03 - Los Angeles 7:51
Melbourne 4:51 - Mexico City 8:00 - Miami 7:58
New York 8:13- Singapore 6:55 - Toronto 8:45

Quote of the Week

You'll never stand out if
your goal in life is to fit in
--  Dr. Mardy Grothe



With Deep Appreciation to

Moshe Eliyahu &
Barbara Growald

Miami Beach, Fla.


In Loving Memory of

Maria Finkle

a great lady



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