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Chukat – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

This week we are faced with the question of what the reality of life is. We have to deal with the inexplicable, such as the ritual of the red heifer. We have to confront the inevitable, such as the deaths of Miriam and Aaron. We come face to face with the loss of our cherished ambitions, Moses will not be allowed to enter the Land.

Of all the “Chukkim”, (statutes which seem to have no rationale), the ordinance of the Red Heifer defies explanation. The earliest commentators threw up their hands trying to explain it. Perhaps the point is that there are some things in life which defy human reason. We need to understand that being human means that we sometimes have to accept our limitations and appreciate faith.

With the death of Miriam came the lack of water and the loss of someone who was not just the sister of Moses, but one who led us in song at the Red Sea. In the Parasha we read

Then Israel sang this song: "'Ascend, O well,' sing to it!
A well dug by princes, carved out by nobles of the people, through the lawgiver with their staffs

This became known as “Miriam’s Well” and for many years a custom arose to drink water from a spring or well after Shabbat .We recall the merit of Miriam.

At his deathbed Aaron was given the privilege of passing on his priestly position to his son Eliazar before he died.

Moses then stripped Aaron of his garments and dressed Eleazar his son in them

We recall the continuance of the priesthood set up at Sinai.

It has often been observed that it seemed excessive that Moses is punished so severely. He is denied entrance to the Land for the act of striking the rock in order to bring water to the complaining people. It was one act of exasperation and frustration at a time when he must have been mourning the deaths of Miriam his sister and Aaron his brother.

We recall that we are part of a covenant which demands that we act in accordance with our understanding of what it asks of us beyond our personal feelings.

It is hard to hold on to faith and always do the right thing. Looking back on our own lives many of us may come to wonder whether or not we too might have been the authors of failure to achieve our dreams because of a single act.

Reality is that we will not be judged as if we were perfect but that we will be asked if we were the best we could be. That will be our inheritance.

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