Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 10   No. 39

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas Chukas

When Miriam Died
(Adapted from the K'li Yakar)
From the fact that the well ceased to function immediately following Miriam's death, observes Rashi, it is clear that throughout the forty years, the incredible roving well that accompanied Yisrael on all their travels did so purely on her merit.

This does not however, explain why Yisrael deserved to suffer by losing their entire water supply upon Miriam's death. That is why the K'li Yakar finds it necessary to present an additional reason for the well's ceasing to function, ascribing it to Yisrael's failure to weep when she died, and to mourn in a manner that befitted a woman of such stature. The Torah writes "And Miriam died there and she was buried there", a paltry five words recording her death and burial, with not a word said about crying for her, as the Torah writes with regard to the death of Moshe and Aharon.

So G-d brought home to them, in a practical way, just whom they had lost. When they suddenly discovered that they had no more water, they quickly realized the connection between Miriam and their ongoing water supply.

This lesson has a practical application to our daily lives, too. All too often, we fail to show our appreciation for G-d's kindness to us, by simply forgetting to thank Him for the good things that He has given us. So G-d finds it necessary to deprive us of our basic needs, in order to remind us who provides for us and to prompt us at least to pray to Him for those needs when we no longer have them, when we are no longer in a position to take anything for granted.

If Yisrael had only not taken for granted Miriam's role in providing them with all their water in a barren desert, G-d would not have found it necessary to cut off their water supply upon her death. Likewise, He would immediately grant all our needs, if only we would not take Him for granted in the first place. Surely, it would be preferable to thank G-d for what we do have, than to have to pray for what we don't.

The choice is ours.


The Gemara in Mo'ed Katan (28a), commenting on the juxtaposition of the death of Miriam to the Parshah of the Parah Adumah, explains that the death of Tzadikim atones just like Korbanos do. Seeing as the Parah Adumah is not really a Korban, explains the K'li Yakar, what the Gemara obviously means is that the death of Tzadikim cleanses the people's sins (like the Parah Adumah 'cleans up the mess which its son, the Golden Calf, made').

Chazal cite this parable, in varying ways, no less than four times. They explain in this light, the juxtaposition of the death of Aharon to the Parshah of Yom Kipur (in Vayikra 16:1), that of Miriam to the Parah Adumah here, the death of Aharon to the Bigdei Kehunah (in Bamibar 20:28) and that of the death of Aharon to the breaking of the Luchos (Devarim 10:2-6).


This corresponds, explains the K'li Yakar, to the four major roles that a Tzadik plays in the lives of the people in whose midst he lives. To begin with, the entire generation is sustained on his merit. 'The whole world,' Chazal quote G-d as saying, 'is sustained on account of Chanina My son, whilst Chanina My son makes do with a Kav of carobs ... '. In this light, Tzadikim can be compared to a mother, who feeds her babies, and that is why the Medrash explains the "two breasts" in Shir ha'Shirim to pertain to Moshe and Aharon. And it is in this context that the Torah places the death of Miriam next to the Parah Adumah, which comes to atone for the sin of its child, the calf.

Secondly, the Tzadik teaches the people of his generation Torah and Mitzvos, and it is to demonstrate this that the Torah places Aharon's death besides the breaking of the Luchos.

Thirdly, the Tzadik shields his generation, protecting them with his shade from the heat and from the cold (as the Torah writes in connection with the spies "their shade has been removed" [with reference to the death of Iyov]). And when the Tzadik dies, it is as if they were naked, without cover, as indeed the Torah writes in Chukas "And the people were seen (revealed) because Aharon died". And this explains the juxtaposition of the death of Aharon to the Bigdei Kehunah.

And finally, the Tzadik atones for them when he dies, which is why the Torah places the death of Aharon's sons next to the Parshah of Yom Kipur.


Little wonder that Chazal have harsh words to say about those who declare 'What use are the Rabbanan to us; they learn Torah for themselves, they learn Mishnayos for themselves?' when what they ought to be asking themselves is, how on earth they would even survive without them!


Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ma'ayanah shel Torah)

Only Moshe Could Understand it

"And they shall take to you a red cow ... " (19:2).

"to you", Hashem said to Moshe, I will reveal the reason of the Mitzvah of the Parah Adumah. As far as everyone else is concerned, it will remain a Chok (a statute) - Medrash.

It is the sins which we perform that create barriers between us and G-d, and it is those same sins that limit our understanding, preventing us from fully fathoming the deep secrets of the Torah.

Sin is the cause of death, and Tum'as Meis is therefore the result of sin. But it is also the ultimate parable that decribes it.

According to Rebbi Moshe ha'Darshen (cited by Rashi) the Parah Adumah comes to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. As a matter of fact, were it not for that sin, Mashi'ach would have come, and there would have been no more sin, no more death and no more Tum'ah.

The Parah Adumah perpetuated sin, death and Tum'ah, and that is why it renders Tamei those who dealt with it. Little wonder then, that nobody is able to plumb its depths.

Each and every member of K'lal Yisrael shared some of the guilt of the sin of the Golden Calf. Even the tribe of Levi, who did not protest, and who therefore fell into the category of 'Kol Yisrael areivim zeh la'zeh' (all Jew are responsible for one another). The only exception was Moshe Rabeinu, who was simply not there. Moshe, and Moshe alone, was able to fully understand the Parah Adumah, because he was the only one not affected by its Tum'ah (M'lo ha'Omer).


Sh'lomoh's Limited Knowledge

The truth of the matter is that many reasons are given for the Parah Adumah, as the commentaries explain. But the true reason was known only to Moshe, says the Chanukas ha'Torah.

Shlomoh Hamelech knew the reasons for all the Mitzvos, yet when it came to the Parah Adumah, he realized that here was one Mitzvah that he could not fully fathom. This led him to the conclusion that just as this Mitzvah was beyond his comprehension, so too, were the other Mitzvos. Perhaps there too, there were other more profound reasons than those that he arrived at.

That is why he said "Amarti echkomoh, ve'hi rechokoh mimeni" (I thought I was wise, but in reality, it is far removed from me). Indeed, that is why the Torah refers to the Parah Adumah as "Chukas ha'Torah".


Fooling Oneself

"asher ein bah mum, asher lo oloh olehah ol" (ibid).

The Pasuk is really describing the Parah Adumah, which must be 'blemishless and which never carried a yoke (did not work)'. However, the Chozeh mi'Lublin, taking it out of context, explains that when somebody thinks that he has no blemish (believes himself to be perfect), it is because he has not accepted the yoke (of the Kingdom of heaven). Otherwise, he would see how riddled with faults he really is.


X-Raying the Parah Adumah

"And he (someone) shall Shecht it in front of him (Elazar ha'Kohen)" 19:3.

Targum Yonasan explains that they had to examine the cow for the eighteen T'reifos.

At first glance, this Targum Yonasan is incomprehensible, bearing in mind that the cow was burned whole. How was it therefore possible to make such an examination?

Reb Micha'el Kohen however, answered this question by pointing out that Targum Yonasan is referring to the Parah Adumah that they prepared in the desert. And he reminds us of the Medrash that the Clouds of Glory that accompanied Yisrael in the desert lit up the surroundings in a miraculous way, to penetrate the darkest of corners, so that they could see everything. In fact, it acted as a sort of x-ray, by which they were able to see the contents of closed barrels and earthenware jars. In that case, they would have had no problem in examining the stomach and innards of a cow, even whilst it was still alive.


Now That's Appropriate

Remember, that were it not for the sin of the Golden Calf, Yisrael would have been free of the Angel of Death, and it is only due to that sin that they continued to die.

Remember too, that the Parah Adumah comes to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf - and you will understand the direct connection between the Parah Adumah and Tum'as Meis.


The Snake and the Cow

We know that death, and the Tum'ah of death, was caused by the sin of Adam, says the S'fas Emes. And what was the sin of Adam? It was the snake convincing him that he could be "like G-d, who knows the difference between good and bad"!

In other words, Adam's sin was to attempt to deify himself. He did not want to nullify his mind before that of the G-d who created him.

That is why the Parah Adumah, which comes to atone for Tum'as Meis (the result of Adam's sin), is a Chok, whose essence is to nullify our own minds before that of G-d.


Communal Needs

"Take the stick ... and speak to the rock" (20:8).

'My children are dying of thirst', G-d said to Moshe, 'and you are sitting and mourning for the old woman (Miriam)' - Yalkut.

The Yalkut also interprets "speak to the rock" to mean that Moshe was to learn a chapter in front of the rock, because on the merit of Torah, it would produce water. This would have been a tremendous lesson for Yisrael as to the power of Torah-study, had Moshe only adhered to it.

Moshe was an Aveil, who under normal circumstances, is forbidden to learn Torah, but not, G-d was telling him here, when Yisrael were dying of thirst. The urgent needs of the community certainly override the Dinim of mourning.


Order of Priorities

"And the congregation and their cattle will drink" (ibid.)

Yet in connection with eating, the Torah writes in the second Parshah of the Sh'ma "And I will give grass in your fields for your animals, and you will eat". This proves that although when it comes to eating, one's animals have first priority, when it comes to drinking, it is the people who take precedence (Seifer Chasidim).


Divine Justice

"And G-d said ... on the border of the land of Edom ... Let Aharon be gathered to his people" (20:23/24).

'This teaches us that because they came close to Eisav ha'Rasha, they were breached and they lost this Tzadik' (Rashi). The Torah explicitly writes that Aharon died here because of the sin that he somehow shared with Moshe in striking the rock, asks the S'fas Emes, so why does Rashi see fit to give a second reason?

His answer is based on the famous principle of Rebbi Bunim from Peshischa. Rebbi Bunim from Peshischa, commenting on the Pasuk in Tehilim "The judgements of Hashem are true, are righteous together", explained that a human judge, on the one hand, will mete out the death sentence, irrespective of whether the defendant's relatives and friends are guilty too or not. Not so Hashem, who will make sure before sentencing a person, that every person who will suffer on account of his punishment, deserves to suffer; otherwise, He will commute or change the sentence.

Here too, says the S'fas Emes, the Torah only explains why Aharon had to die, but not what justified Yisrael's suffering at the death of this Tzadik. Therefore Rashi explains why Yisrael deserved to suffer too - because if they hadn't, Aharon wouldn't have died.


Part 2
(based on the morning Korbanos, with the commentaries of Rashi on the Chumash and of the Sidur Iyun Tefilah)
The Parshah of Terumas ha'Deshen

u'Foshat es Begodov ... ve'Lovash Begodim Acheirim

The Pasuk now switches to when the ashes on the 'Tapu'ach' (the ever-growing mound of spent ashes in the middle of the Mizbe'ach) have accumulated and need to be removed. The Kohen who performs this particular Avodah changes into an inferior set of Bigdei Kehunah (because it is not considered ettiquette to wear the same clothes when performing a more dignified Avodah, as the one that he wears whilst carrying the ashes). This is not obligatory however. Neither, for that matter, is the removal of the ashes from the Tapu'ach a daily obligation (like the Terumas ha'Deshen is).


Ve'Hotzi es ha'Deshen el mi'Chutz la'Machaneh

When the ashes on the Tapu'ach have accumulated, they are taken to the same designated spot outside Yerushalayim where the Chata'os Chitzoniyos (the Sin-offerings whose blood is sprinkled inside the Heichal) are burned.


Ve'ho'Eish al ha'Mizbei'ach Tukad Bo Lo Sichbeh ...

This teaches us that It is forbidden to extinguish the fire on the Mizbei'ach (even in part). In fact, someone who does, transgresses two La'avin.


U'Vi'er Alehah ha'Kohen Eitzim ...

Each morning (and afternoon), there is a specific Mitzvah to place two additional blocks of wood on the Ma'arachah Gedolah (the large arrangement of wood).


Ve'Arach Alehah ha'Olah

Chazal derive from here that the Korban Tamid shel Shachar must be the first Korban to be brought each day, and from ...


Ve'Hiktir Alehah Chelvei ha'Shelamim

... they learn that the last Korban to be brought each day is the Tamid shel Bein ha'Arbayim (with the sole exception of the Korban Pesach, which can be brought after it).

We also learn from here that (despite the prohibition to bring fresh Korbanos after the Tamid shel Bein ha'Arbayim) the fat pieces which remain unburned from the Korbanos brought during the day, continue to burn on the Mizbei'ach all night. They only become 'Nosar' (leftovers which have to be burned) in the morning (because in the realm of Korbanos, it is the night which follows the day).


Eish Tamid Tukad al ha'Mizbei'ach

This implies that the Kohen takes the light for the Menorah (which the Torah also also refers to as 'Tamid') from the Mizbei'ach.

And the various expressions of "Tukad Bo" that the Torah inserts in this Parshah, teach us that the Kohanim place three arrangements of wood on the Mizbei'ach - the Ma'arachah Gedolah (on which the Korbanos are burned), a second Ma'arachah (to keep the fire burning, just in case the main Ma'arachah goes out) and a small Ma'arachah (from which they take a light for the Ketores [which is burned on the Mizbei'ach ha'Zahav]).



In Parshas Sh'lach-Lecha, in 'The Korban Chatas for Avodah-Zarah', we wrote that the Tzibur bring a she-goat as a Chatas. This should have read 'a he-goat'. In fact, the Tzibur never brings a female animal under any circumstances. Many thanks to Reb Moshe Perkal, for pointing this out.


For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel