Pearls of Rashi – Chukas

This week’s Torah portion, Chukas, tells of (Bamidbar 19:2) the “Chukas Hatorah,” the “Chok” of the Torah. A “Chok” is a Divine commandment which has no explanation based on human understanding. It can only be understood according to G-dly intellect. The statute of the Torah, the most outstanding of all of these is what our Parshah discusses. It is a procedure which must be performed with a completely red cow. Through this procedure one who came into contact with a corpse can be ritually purified.

There are various levels of spiritual impurity. Each is the result of contact with death in one form or another. Hence the most serious form of spiritual impurity is contact with a corpse. The only way to remove this defilement is through the “Red Cow.”

Rashi comments on the above verse (ibid.) “This is the statute of the Torah which Hashem commanded saying, ‘Speak to the Jewish people and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.’” Rashi cites the words “and have them take for you” and writes that “It will always be called on your name; the cow which Moshe prepared in the desert.” We have written many times that Rashi is very “stingy” with the words he uses. He only writes that which is absolutely necessary. What need is there to tell us that Moshe prepared the cow “in the desert?” We all know that whatever Moshe did was in the desert! He received the Torah and carried out all of Hashem’s commands in the wilderness!

As is the case with everything in Torah this comes to teach us an important lesson. One can ask how he has the power to purify a Jew who has descended to the lowest level. The answer is that he must keep in mind that the “Red Cow” was prepared in the desert. The desert is a place of (Devorim 8:15) “…snakes, vipers and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water …” Nevertheless it was from this cow specifically that each Kohen who would prepare each cow throughout all subsequent generations would be prepared. Even in an environment of that sort we have the power to purify each and every Jew no matter how he has fallen

We must use that power in order to sanctify ourselves and all of those around us. In that manner we will certainly bring Moshiach now!

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

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