Chukat 5778

June 17, 2018

7 min read


Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1 )

GOOD MORNING!  In the Torah portion of Va'etchanan the Almighty instructs the Jewish people, "You shall not intermarry ... " (Deut. 7:3). With the ever-increasing assimilation and the ever-increasing intermarriage, more and more people consider it to be impolite and "politically incorrect" to even broach the subject.

However, since Biblical times it has been an important issue. In the Torah portion Toldot, the Torah tells us that Yitzhak and Rivka (Isaac and Rebecca) were deeply upset over Esau marrying outside of the faith. For thousands of years Jewish parents have wanted their children to marry Jews and to be a link in the Jewish future. For most Jews it was the bottom line for their Jewish identity. It was the line in the sand that was not to be crossed.

These days, more often than not, Jewish parents would prefer that their children marry Jewish, but when confronted with an intermarriage situation they fall back to a secondary position of "as long as they're happy." Why no line in the sand, no dramatic stand against intermarriage?

Though many parents deeply care, they can't explain what is so precious about being Jewish or part of the Jewish people. It is a failure of our Jewish educational system and the drifting away from Jewish learning and observance. Perhaps we haven't been the best role model for leading a Jewish life. Perhaps we aren't that connected with things Jewish -- a synagogue, a JCC, the Federation. Perhaps we don't know what to say.

People often ask me for advice about intermarriage situations, probably because of the book I wrote -- How to Prevent an Intermarriage -- a guide for parents to prevent broken hearts. It is a practical guide to help parents with both the long term goal of having their children marry Jews as well as how to interact with their child considering intermarriage. It helps parents understand their own motivations and articulates the reasons that they perhaps they can only intuit. The book sets forth how to communicate and presents facts and case histories. It can be downloaded in English or Spanish from

Doron Kornbluth wrote a highly readable book for those considering intermarriage. Why Marry Jewish? -- Surprising Reasons for Jews to Marry Jews is the book a parent can give to his child to avoid pitfalls, heartache and divorce. The author presents the facts of what happens in intermarriages to the couples and the children --underlying differences, problems in raising children, religious differences, why they have a higher divorce rate.

He draws from a plethora of studies to highlight the stumbling blocks and pitfalls that exist in intermarriage situations between people of any religions, not just Jews. I recommend to parents that they buy 2 copies -- one for their child and one for the non-Jew. The book is not offensive nor preachy -- it's informative. The more information a person has, the better decisions he or she will make.

Being a parent is not a popularity contest. It is a responsibility to love, guide, nurture and protect one's children. Love is not just the pleasure one has from focusing on the good in a person; love is a responsibility. One is doing a disservice to his child if he doesn't try to communicate important issues that need to be dealt with to ensure happiness. To assume that the child already knows the issues and has discussed them is naiveté.

Perhaps we as parents are sometimes derelict in our responsibility to our children. Perhaps we give in too easily. It is easier to go with the flow than to deal with the issue. Being a parent is about responsibility and helping our children be the best they can and make the best choices they can. It means taking the tough road and actually talking with our children about issues that really matter. It is not about abdication to the will or desires of our children.

If intermarriage is something that you wish to avoid with your children, get a copy of How to Prevent an Intermarriage and Why Marry Jewish? -- and hopefully you won't have the pain experienced by Yitzhak and Rivka over your child marrying outside of the faith!

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 (instead of speaking to it) 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
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Regarding the Cohen (the priest) who administers the purification process with the ashes of the Red Heifer, the Torah writes:

"And the priest is impure until the evening" (Numbers 19:7).

Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorki taught that the essence of the Parah Aduma, Red Cow (that is, the whole procedure of purifying those who were spiritually impure) is the concept of "Love your neighbor."

His grandson, Rabbi Mendel of Vorki explained that this is because the Cohen (who was involved in the purification process) becomes impure himself through the process which purifies the person who came to him. When someone forfeits in order to help someone else, that is the ultimate in love for one's fellow human being.

A person who is not willing to make any sacrifices for other people will always find reasons why it is too difficult for him to do acts of kindness for others. To help others takes time, energy and money. However, when someone truly loves another person, he feels pleasure in all the sacrifices that he makes for him. The greater your love for someone, the more sacrifices you are willing to make. Therefore, the test of your level of love for your fellow human being is the amount of sacrifices you are willing to make. A person who is not willing to make any sacrifices shows that he lacks love for others.


Candle Lighting Times

June 22
(or go to

Jerusalem 7:13
Guatemala 6:16 - Hong Kong 6:53 - Honolulu 6:59
J'Burg 5:07 - London 9:04 - Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:50 - Mexico City 8:00 - Miami 7:57
New York 8:13 - Singapore 6:54 - Toronto 8:45

Quote of the Week

We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves



In Loving Memory of

Ruben Matz

upon the unveiling
of his headstone

In Loving Memory of

Ruth Glueck




In Memory of

Daniel Stern

with love,
Andrew Stern & Family

In Loving Memory of

Arthur Weiss,
Asher ben Leib

With deep appreciation,
Geoff Frisch


Next Steps