Monday, January 25, 2016

Parshat Chukat, 1st Portion, (Numbers 19:1-17), 7/10/2016

The Lord tell Moses and Aaron to get a perfectly red cow with no blemishes. This cow has probably never existed, nor will it ever exist. If it has two black hairs, it will be disqualified... and if it ever had a yoke, it will be disqualified. Some say that such an animal was born in 1997 in Israel, and that it is rumored that this is a sign that a messiah will come after it is born. Though a few Jews believe that the messiah has come, I haven’t heard of one coming since 1989.

The rest of this portion is about how the red cow (heifer) is a key part of the burnt offerings to purify ourselves were we in the midst of a corpse, had a seminal emission, experienced a menstrual flow, or afflicted with tzara’ath (disfiguring of the skin). 

The Lord sets a high bar defining a procedure for cleanliness—a bar so high that it is practically impossible. 

I see two reasons why the Lord might do that. First, if there were a perfect red cow then that would be another idol like the golden calf that the Israelites made in the desert when Moses didn’t return on time from getting the commandments from the Lord. Second, making a process impossible suggests that it is not completing the task that is important, but rather doing our best to try. 

“He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to idle from it. If you have learned much Torah, you will be given much reward. And faithful is your Employer that He will reward you for your labor. And know that the reward of the righteous will be in the World to Come.” One of our rabbis in Austin used this below his signature on emails. 

1 comment:

Thanks for commenting. One cannot study the Torah alone.