10 Tammuz 5776 חֻקַּת, י’ תמוז, תשע”ו פרשת
In this parashah we jump forward to the 40th year as the Israelites are getting ready to enter the Promised Land. It includes the passing away of Miriam and Aharon, whose son Eleazar will inherit his position of Cohen Hagadol. Moshe and Aharon will both not be able to enter the Promised Land. It also speaks of life and death. I have been teaching over and over that if we take the Scriptures out of context, we invent a religion. All the major religions have their own writings which are interpreted according to their agenda. They have not taken into consideration the setting in which the Torah was given to the people by the hand of the Creator. The Torah is the basis of interpretation for ANY later writings whether it is the Talmud which gives the rabbis the authority to change the Scriptures or the New Testament which according to the Christian theologians interprets the rest of Scripture. Islam does the same with their own sacred book, the Koran. If the last is supposedly the best, then Islam is the religion of choice today. Divine revelation however came at Mt. Sinai to the people there who consisted of a mixed multitude — not all were the descendants of the twelve tribes. This gives us a beautiful picture of the universality of the Torah which was given to a people called Israel by God. They had a special calling of being ohr l’goyim – light to the world by distributing it to the rest of the nations. Today when the truth has been revealed to us we also have this same responsibility.
This parashah is specifically meant to reverse the hocus-pocus of the false religions of the day, most of which had an obsession with death, placing it upon a pedestal. Many believed and still believe today that the body is the prison of the soul and in order to be free, one needs to die. This is a very Greek concept coming from older civilizations. Israel had been living in Egypt with its pyramids which were gigantic tombs. When a Pharaoh would die, he would be embalmed securing his body for the next world. He was buried with all his servants, his court, his women and much food and treasure. Our Creator was in the process of removing this brainwashing from the Israelites. It is so easy to accept values that are totally contrary to the Torah and this had happened to them. We see this today in how little parents can do to stop the schools from brainwashing their children with values that are anti- Torah due to the restrictions placed upon them by the government. If the government was smart they wouldn’t impose these beliefs upon the people. Egypt had imposed their beliefs over time upon the Israelites and they were losing their calling.
Our Creator is giving us here a “choke – חוק” which is an injunction without a logical reason. He wanted to change the idea that death was something to be worshiped. Once the neshama (soul) has departed the body it is no longer important. It needs to be treated with respect and buried but that’s all. Necromancy was normal in cultures that worshiped the dead. They hold banquets at their tombs and even speak to the dead. The Torah prohibits this. In Leviticus it clearly tells us not to consult the dead. We all know what happened when the Prophet Samuel was brought back from the dead at the call of King Shaul. Our Creator separated us from this concept by giving us the regulations of what to do if we are touched by the dead. The rituals showed us not to exalt the dead body and our Creator wanted us to know that He made us in His likeness and image, with His essence which is eternal. Because of this we are eternal and life becomes the most important element. In Deuteronomy 30:15 He offers us life and opportunity or death and disaster. If we obey His commandments and love Him we would live and grow numerous. He would bless us in the land. He gives us the choice but asks us to choose life. He is the God of the living not of the dead. Yeshua tells the Sadducees who didn’t believe in the resurrection in Matthew 22:32 that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the God of the living. With that he was telling us that our forefathers are still alive. This is very important for us. We don’t need to elevate death but we are to elevate life. While we are still here we can follow God’s commandments.
I used to work as a counselor answering the suicide line which is when I coined the phrase: ‘suicide is a permanent solution for a temporal problem’. How many of us commit spiritual suicide over a temporary problem? When things don’t go our way we threaten to leave the congregation. The Hebrew word “caret – כרת” means cut off and “mot – מות” mean death. One means to be cut off from the community and the other is to die. Which one is worse? When you are dead, your body is gone (“met”). Caret or being cut off from the community is worse than death. The community is the place where we are fed, where we grow and are formed into a person. When the Scriptures condemn us by being cutting off from the community, we become like a spiritual zombie, the walking dead. Be careful not to become a spiritual zombie.
Another aspect I would like to look at is this. I call this portion, the quantum leap parashah jumping 38 years ahead. We have an entire new generation, the circumcision had stopped and they were all young and fresh having the example of their parents so we would think that they wouldn’t make the same mistakes but lo and behold they did the exactly same thing — complain. In Exodus 17 we see the same as Numbers 20, complaining about not having water to drink. They were in the same area where 38 years before, Moses and the elders had sent out the scouts to check the land. The people blamed Moses saying that they would rather have died in Egypt where they had everything. They forgot all that the Creator had done for them during their 40 years in the desert. Moshe and Aaron went to the Tent of Meeting, prostrated themselves and cried out to God. Why did Moshe do this? He had done this before… bringing water from the rock. Why didn’t he just bring forth water again from the rock? He was so frustrated thinking that this generation would have been better than the last one but they seemed even worse.
God asked Moses to speak to the rock not to hit it as he had done before. In this way, he would show them who the Creator really was. He didn’t want an act. However Moses took his rod, the symbol of his leadership as all the leaders of the tribes had, and struck the rock not once but twice. Poor Moshe at 120 years of age was fed up with the people; he had enough of them and exploded. Both Moshe and Aaron were there together and said “shall WE make water gush from the rock?” In one second Moshe lost his humility showing that he was a human being! This is very important. Many look at Moshe as being perfect to the point that some revere him as a god. Likewise, they have made Yeshua into a super perfect being, a god instead of allowing him to be who he was, the true Messiah of Israel. By elevating him to the position of god, so much confusion has arisen about our God actually is. Moshe was called to be a man as the messiah was a man and he was sent by the Father; he is not the Father. He never claimed to be.
Who did the people think did this miracle of bringing water from the rock? When you place miracles into the hands of man, you take the credit away from the Creator. The LORD spoke to both men and told them since they didn’t trust God to do what He said He wouldn’t allow them to lead the people into the Promised Land. They both hadn’t elevated Him before the people but instead took the credit themselves. Aaron simply followed whatever Moses said and did. Aaron immediately went up to Mount Hor and went to sleep with his fathers. His son Eleazar went up with him and came down with the garments of the priest to take his place. Moshe would later do the same.
How often have I repeated the same thing over and over? Do not follow a religion; follow the Creator. They will all tell you that they have the truth. Our Messiah Yeshua told us “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” Yeshua knew and followed the traditions of our people. He understood that Emet or Truth was a euphemistic way of saying the Creator. The Hebrew word for know is “yodeah” which is to know someone intimately as a man knows his wife. He was an itinerant teacher, a rabbi and he was telling us that as we have an intimate relationship with the Creator, He will set us free from everything holding us back from having this relationship with Him. We don’t need anything else. Today religions teach us all kinds of rules, dogmas and doctrines to do in order to be “saved”. Yeshua tells us to get back to basics, to have a personal relationship with the One who made us. He was constantly bringing us back to the father, never pointing to himself. All the religions have made him out to be someone he was not. We don’t need intermediaries. He was telling us that the mere Presence in us changes us from within. He was teaching us about teshuva, coming back to the Creator as the prodigal son came back to his father. When they asked Yeshua how to pray, he said to pray to “avinu sheba shamayim, our Father in heaven” not to himself. Our true God revealed Himself to us at Mount Sinai and that Creator cannot die, death is not part of Him. That is what he was showing us in this portion.