Parsha [Passage of Scripture] Nugget [Precious Idea] Chukas – Numbers 19:1-22:1
Admiral William McRaven, the top navy SEAL, recommends you make your bed every morning so you start your day off with a victory, however small. He reminds me of my mother. As a kid she always wanted me to clean up my room, even if I was going to mess it up later. This week’s parsha, Chukas, makes sense of her seemingly unreasonable demand:
Speak to the Children of Israel and they will take for you a perfectly red cow that there is not on it a blemish and that was not placed on it a yoke. (Numbers/Bamidbar 19:2)
This week’s parsha discusses the mysterious mitzvah (commandment) of the parah adumah or red heifer, Miriam’s death and the subsequent stopping of the well of water, Moses’s and Aaron’s error and punishment for disobeying G-d when supplying water to the people, the death of Aaron, the attack of the Amalekites, and the wars with Sihon and Og.
For millennia the parah adumah has puzzled scholars. How is it that through the process of creating ashes that will cleanse tumas meis, spiritual defilement caused by contact with a human corpse, the person making the ashes becomes tumei, spiritually defiled? By human reasoning it makes no sense.
The Torah calls this mitzvah a chuk or decree. There are many chukim in the Torah, all beyond the limited reach of the human mind. Even the wisest person who ever lived, King Solomon, admitted he understood all of the mitzvahs except the parah adumah.
Some argue when a mitzvah makes no sense, like this one, it should be abandoned. If so, we give up one of the most powerful ways to express love.
By doing something that G-d tells you to do, despite not understanding why, you are given the chance to be humble, to acknowledge your own limited capacity to understand the world. Humility is the crucial first step when conveying love. It makes possible a connection that benefits your beloved unimpeded by self-interest.
As well, by acting solely because the Almighty tells you to do something, you demonstrate the ultimate level of willingness to serve the Creator. Ungrudgingly replacing your own will with that of another, be it G-d’s or your beloved’s, can only come from a place of deepest love.
There is no conflict between being a strong-willed, self-directed Intentionalist and this ideal of love. Rather, the deliberate setting aside of your desires for the sake of others is the supreme exercise of intentionalism. It pays huge dividends in mental and spiritual fitness by creating secure, enduring friendships and familial relationships, and a deep connection with G-d.
How do you control your ego so as to love more deeply? Please comment below.
Every year beginning on Simchas Torah, the cycle of reading the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, ends and begins again. Each Sabbath a portion known as a sedra or parsha is read. It is named after the first significant word or two with which this weekly reading begins.
What verse in the Old Testament would you like to know more about? Ask a question and I will answer it in a future Parsha Nugget!
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