38 Chukat Balak

         זֹאת חֻקַּ֣ת הַתּוֹרָה אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה יְהוה לֵאמֹ֑ר דַּבֵּ֣ר׀ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה תְּמִימָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר אֵֽין־בָּהּ מוּם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־עָלָה עָלֶיהָ עֹֽל׃

This is the law of the Torah which the Lord has commanded, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish





Brit Chadasha

July 1 2023

“Law - Spoiler”

Numbers 19:1-25:9

Micah 5:6-6:8

2Pet. 2:1-22
John 3:9-21


At its essence, Parashat Chukat brims with questions and mystery. From its opening with the curious purification ritual of the “red heifer” to the water crisis at Kadesh to the bizarre copper serpent of Moses, we seem to be wrestling with far more queries than answers. One of the most cryptic episodes is connected to drought in the immediate aftermath of Miriam’s death. The People rise up against Moses and Aaron, demanding water to drink. Moses and Aaron “fall on their faces.” God tells Moses to take his brother Aaron, rod in hand, assemble the community, and speak to the rock. Moses strikes the rock, water flows, and God punishes Moses. God turns to Moses and Aaron, declaring, “Because you did not trust Me enough to affirm My sanctity in the sight of the Israelite people.

On the other hand Parashat Balak centers around the desire of Balak, the king of Moav, to curse the Israelites as they make their way toward the Land of Israel. Unsatisfied with the magical powers resident among his own people, Balak turns to a Babylonian sorcerer by the name of Balaam. He makes numerous attempts to commission Balaam in this “sacred” endeavor, but Balaam, through his own volition and God’s will, proves incapable of uttering curses against the Israelites. Rather, Balaam ends up uttering praise and blessing over this determined people, declaring, “How can I damn whom God has not damned, how doom when the Lord has not doomed? / As I see them from the mountain tops, Gaze on them from the heights, There is a people that dwells apart, Not reckoned among the nations, / Who can count the dust of Jacob, Number the dust cloud of Israel?” (Num. 23:8–10).