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Chukat 5768

Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING! There is much confusion amongst Jews as to what we believe in as Jews. What are the essential Jewish beliefs? Actually, throughout the ages the greatest of our sages have dealt with this question. 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 as the essential beliefs required of every Jew. They are found in almost every prayer book and are accepted as the unambiguous creed of Judaism.

The Thirteen Principles of Belief fall into three categories: A) The nature of the belief in God B) The authenticity, validity and immutability of the Torah C) The responsibilities upon human beings and our ultimate reward. Every principle as stated by Maimonides is prefaced with "I believe with complete belief that..." This week and next week I will enumerate and elucidate with the explanations found in the Artscroll Siddur. The Nature of the Belief in God has five principles:

1) The Creator creates and guides all creatures; He alone made, makes, and will make everything. (There is no partnership in creation. God is the sole Creator and the universe continues to exist only because He wills it so. He could exist if everything else were to come to an end, but it is inconceivable that there could be any form of existence independent of Him).

2) The Creator is unique and there is no uniqueness like His in any way; that He alone is our God, Who was, Who is and Who always will be. (God is a complete and total Unity. He is not a collection of limbs and organs, as are man and animals. He cannot be split as can a rock or divided into component elements as can everything else in creation).

3) The Creator is not physical and is not affected by physical phenomena; there is no comparison whatsoever to Him. (His essence cannot be understood by human beings who are physical; we cannot conceive of a Being unaffected by the laws of nature and physics).

4) The Creator is the very first and very last. (He is eternal and the first source. He created everything and transcends time which is also a creation. See Genesis and the Big Bang by Gerald Schroeder -- and the classic commentaries on the book of Genesis).

5) To the Creator alone is it proper to pray; it is not proper to pray to any other. (No creation has any power independent of what God assigns to it. To attribute ultimate power to any thing or being other than God falls in the category of idol worship).

For a brilliant exposition on the Thirteen Principles of Belief, read Fundamentals and Faith by Rabbi Yakov Weinberg, former Rosh HaYeshiva of Ner Yisroel Yeshiva in Baltimore (and brother of Rabbi Noah Weinberg, founder and leader of the Aish HaTorah). Another excellent book is 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.

For more on "13 Principles of Belief" go to!

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Torah Portion of the Week

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. (There are two episodes with the Almighty commanding Moshe concerning the rock. The other time, Moshe was commanded to hit the rock.) Moshe gets angry and hits the rock and water rushes forth. 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

The Torah states,

"This is the Torah, if a person dies in a tent..." (Number 19:14).

What homiletical lesson can we learn from this verse?

The Talmud, Tractate Brochos 63b), tells us that the Torah only lasts with those who die over it. This seems very puzzling since the Torah is for living as it states in Leviticus 18:5 "And you shall live with them (the commandments)."

The Chofetz Chaim gave the following analogy: A very successful merchant was so busy taking care of the customers who came to his store that he had no time for Torah study. He noticed one day that his hair was turning gray and he realized that he was getting older. He knew that the day he would leave this world was getting closer. He therefore decided that he would go each morning to the synagogue to pray with a minyan (quorum of 10 men over the age of 13) and to study Torah for a couple of hours.

When he came late to the store, his wife was frantic. People would have come to his store if he were there -- they were losing customers! He calmly told his wife, "What would I do if the Angel of Death came to me and told me that my time in this world was up? Could I tell him that I can't go yet since I'll miss out on customers? If I were already dead I would not be able to come to the store. Therefore, each day let us imagine for a couple of hours that I have already died. This way I am able to study Torah each day."

This, said the Chofetz Chaim, is what the Sages are advising us. You might be very busy and feel that you do not have any time to study Torah. However, if you will just view yourself as if you were already dead, you will find the time to study Torah which gives life to those who study it!

(or go to

Jerusalem 7:14
Guatemala 6:17 - Hong Kong 6:53 - Honolulu 6:59
J'Burg 5:09 - London 9:02 - Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:54 - Mexico City 8:01 - Miami 7:59

New York 8:13 - Singapore 6:57 - Toronto 8:44


It is never too late to be
what you might have been.

Happy Birthday
Earl Pertnoy
With love, all your children
and grandchildren!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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Copyright Rabbi Kalman Packouz 2008


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