Parashas Chukas

Parashas Chukas opens with the law of the red heifer, the prime example of a chok – a Divine decree whose rationale is not revealed. In this context, the Maggid provides a general discussion of chukim. We present a portion of this discussion, based on a passage in Tehillim 50.
The passage begins (verses 16-18):
To the wicked man, God said: “What does it avail you to recount My decrees (chukai), and bear My covenant upon your lips? For you have hated moral counsel, and have cast My words behind you. If you see a thief, you emulate him, and with adulterers is your lot.”
The Maggid explains these three verses as follows. Many people try to justify their disregard for the Torah’s laws on the grounds that the laws have no apparent rationale. Often, however, this argument is just a dodge, disingenuously put forward by a person who cavalierly casts aside whatever rules he considers a hindrance, even those – such as the prohibition against theft in any form – whose rationale is easily grasped. Hashem is rebuking those who act with such duplicity.
The passage continues (verse 19-21):
“[Yet] you let your mouth loose against evil, your tongue adhering to deceit. You sit and speak against your brother; against your mother’s son you cast aspersions. These things you have done, and I kept silent. You imagined I would be as you were. I shall tellingly rebuke you, and lay out the matter fittingly to your eyes.”
Here, the Maggid explains, Hashem is addressing the wicked man’s violation of moral laws, undercutting his attempt to argue that he did not realize his behavior was wrong. Hashem tells him: “When you emulated the thieves and adulterers, I kept silent. You imagined I would maintain the stance that you took, projecting lack of awareness of the difference between right and wrong. But I will remain silent no longer. The way you act shows what your eyes truly perceive, and in accord with this I will prove to your face that you were dissembling. You let your mouth loose against evil, so it is clear that you can tell right from wrong. Thus, you cannot excuse your own wrongdoing by saying that you did not know better.”
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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