Parashas Chukas

This week’s parashah begins with the mitzvah of the red heifer, the classic example of a chok – a mitzvah whose reason is beyond us. The Midrash comments (Bamibar Rabbah 19:1): “Said the Holy One Blessed Be He: ‘I have legislated a statute and issued a decree – and you are not permitted to contravene My decree.’” The double language in this Midrash is glaring. The Maggid offers two explanations.
1. The world operates on certain laws that God implanted within it. Some of these we can grasp, while others are beyond us. The Sages teach that the Torah is the blueprint of creation. We can thus explain that laws of the Torah that we can grasp form the basis for the laws of nature that we can grasp, while the laws of the Torah that we cannot grasp for the basis for the laws of nature that we cannot grasp. There are thus two types of chukimchukim of the Torah and chukim of nature, and they correspond one to the other.
2. As our Sages teach, the Torah has four basic levels of meaning: the simple meaning (pshat), hints (remez), homiletical teachings (drash), and hidden wisdom (sohd). The level we are most familiar with is the simple meaning. And it is beyond our comprehension how a prosaic command such as “do not steal” could contain within it a whole universe of deep hidden wisdom. To us, this is a chok. On the other hand, the angels are most familiar with the level of hidden wisdom. They are astounded that a whole universe of wisdom can be encapsulated into a prosaic command such as “do not steal.” To them, this is a chok.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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