Blog Chukkat Tammuz 10 5778 בלוג חֻקַּת, י’ תמוז תשע”ח
This portion Chukkat can be a little confusing if we take it simply in a literal sense without understanding the process that the Creator was taking the children of Israel through. From the yetziah -יציאה , the exit from Egypt to the Promised Land, they had passed through many trials and now we would see this new generation like their parents, fail in their trust of the Creator. Here we jump 38 years to the 40th year as they are about to enter the Promised Land. We will see the unconscious influence of parents upon their children due to their behavior and attitudes.
When I spoke to you about the Ten Commandments, I divided them into three portions. The first three are the Mitzvoth – מצוות, the Commandments, which have to do with our relationship with the Creator; the second two are the Chukkim – חוקים, the Ordinances which are specifically directed at how we care for ourselves and the last five, the Mishpatim – מישפטים, Judgments or Statutes pertain to how we treat our neighbor. This draws our attention to the fact that the “Chukkat” are specifically meant for us as individuals. Our sages tell us that Chukkim have no logical reasons. Even King Solomon, the wisest king who ever lived, was unable to understand them.
Modern psychologists and neuro-psychologists in their study of the human brain, speak of two parts of the brain which play a very important role in how we humans function; one is the frontal lobe with which we reason and the other is the amygdala which deals with the intuitive or instinctive. When we learn to play the piano, at first it takes a lot of practice but as we grow proficient we no longer need to look at the keys; playing comes naturally. The Creator takes us through a similar process of training, using the Chukkim where His precepts will become more intuitive than rational. When we are in danger, our amygdala kicks in and our sense of preservation then takes over and we act not within reason but in that moment upon instinct. That’s what the Creator was doing with Israel in order to train them to trust in Him. The environment that they had just left in Egypt was completely pagan, with its worship of death and of animals. The people would have to be cleansed from these rituals. The Bore Olam was teaching them that He is the God of the living and we do not worship death which is only a passage.
In Mishlei, Proverbs 1:8, we read, “Listen, my child, to your father’s instruction, do not reject your mother’s teaching:” This idea is repeated again in Prov. 6:20-24 23 For the precept is a lamp, the teaching (Torah) is a light; correction and discipline are the way to life”. We acquire new capabilities as we are trained. The tsitsit, the mezuzah, everything He gave us is to keep us aware of His Presence with us at all times and to help us develop wisdom through a slow training process. The Torah teaches us to separate ourselves from bad influences. The Creator equips us by giving us tasks to do in order that we train ourselves until it becomes second nature to turn to Him and not to return to our pagan ways.
Now in the 40th year in the desert, this second generation was complaining to Moshe about the lack of water. Moshe was now 120 and fed up with these cry-babies. The Creator gave him the simple solution to the problem… teach them by going to the rock and speak to it so that all Israel would see MY power and trust ME when you would bring forth water from the rock. With a rush of impatience, Moshe struck the rock twice bringing forth a gush of water. This caused the people to see Moshe as if he were the hero of the day and not the Creator. The problem is that we humans love to make idols. The Creator punished Moshe because he gave the people a reason to trust in him instead of the Creator. If Moshe had continued on, the people would have made him a god. That is why no one knows where he is buried today. Can you imagine if we did? Today even in our own Jewish communities, Orthodox Jews rush to the tombs of their rabbis in droves to the point of practically worshipping them. Are they honoring their memories or worshipping them? That, only the Creator can know. Moshe took it personally when the people complained so much about not having water. He lost it and hit the rock instead of talking to it. Whenever our ego reacts to someone and we take their insults personally, we lose it.
At the end, we read the story about the fiery serpents which were sent by God to punish the people for their complaining. The Creator told Moshe to put a bronze or copper serpent on a pole and to tell the people that whoever would look up at it would be healed from the burning bites that they had received. The Creator was showing them that He was greater than these serpents which were looked upon as gods in Egypt. When people trusted in the Bore Olam, they would be healed. Who do you trust? Many prefer to trust in the form (religion) instead of having a true relationship with God. We need to practice our relationship with Him in order to develop this trust as in any human relationship. This takes time over which we learn about their heart and their loyalty. How can we know whether or not our Creator is trustworthy if we don’t spend time with Him; if we only call on Him when we are in trouble? The Chukkim are to train us in how to develop a relationship with Him. The principles of the Torah are not only to be heard but to be put into practice in our lives otherwise we are simply wasting our time.