Chukas 5777

RABBI AVROHOM R. FEIGENBAUM

וישמע הכנעני מלך ערד יושב הנגב כי בא ישראל דרך האתרים וילחם בישראל (במדבר כא:א)

The Cana’anite king of Arad, who dwelled in the south, heard that Israel had come
by the route of the spies, and he warred against Israel (Bamidbar 21:1)

Rashi comments that in reality, this pasuk is referring to Amalek, for they dwelled in the south, but they are referred to as Cana’an because they disguised their identity by speaking the language of Cana’an. Their motive was that Klal Yisrael should mistake them to be Cana’anim and pray for Cana’an’s downfall. Their prayers would be ineffective since in truth they were Amalek. However, their ruse failed. When Klal Yisrael saw that their style of dress was in accordance with the Amaleki norm, they were confused by the contradicting Cana’anite language. They in turn decided to pray a neutral sounding prayer without specifying the nation’s name, and it was effective.
It seems difficult to understand the actions of Amalek. Were they not intelligent enough to realize that their disguise was faulty, due to the indication given by the clothing they wore? Why didn’t they also imitate the Cana’anite style of dress and successfully disguise themselves as Cana’anim? That surely would have led Klal Yisrael’s prayer to be specified towards Cana’an, and their prayers would have remained unanswered.
Rav Shalom of Belz answered that Amalek was concerned that by overly mimicking Cana’an’s ways, the nation might eventually end up switching its nationality and become Cana’anim. They were not willing to let this happen. The people of Amalek wanted to remain the nation that they were and not lose their identity entirely.
There is yet a deeper approach. Rav Itzele from Vorka and the Chiddushei HaRim answer with a startling insight. Had they changed both their language and their clothing, they would in actuality be considered Cana’anim. The way one dresses and speaks defines his essence. If they mimicked both language and clothing, Klal Yisrael’s prayer for the downfall of “Cana’an” would indeed include the disguised Amalek, and it would be effective. Therefore, Amalek was only able to change one of the identifying traits, which ultimately led to a failed attempt.
Further analysis reveals how astonishing this really is. The entire ruse was only planned to be a temporary change, as a method of being victorious in war and grabbing some booty. Yet for that short time span, while they “appeared” to be Cana’anites, they would be considered authentic Cana’anites, not just “look-alikes.” This reinforces the depth to which one is defined by his style of dress and choice of language.
The following story emphasizes this concept. There was a teenager living in Eretz Yisrael whose enthusiasm for spirituality had cooled off. He was embarrassed to act differently than his peers, so he decided to travel away from the Holy Land. This way, he would have the freedom to behave as he wished. But he was a Chassid, so before leaving he went to his Rebbe, the Beis Yisrael of Gur, to receive a parting blessing.
A short time after the boy’s departure, a messenger from the Rebbe appeared at his parents’ house, inquiring as to whether the boy had packed his Shabbos Kapote (long coat). Sure enough, when his mother checked his closet, the Kapote was hanging there.
On the first Friday that the young man was out of the country, there was a knock on his host’s door. Upon opening, an unknown Jew handed him a package saying that it’s from the Rebbe. It was his Kapote, of course. Upon realizing that he was being looked after, the young man didn’t change his way of dress, and he wore his Chassidic garb. Being uniquely dressed and standing out from the masses, he was deterred from being drawn into the wrong crowd, and eventually he found his way back to his earlier forms of behavior. Such is the power of influence that clothing has!
In a similar vein, the Holy Rav Yehoshua “The Long One” Hurwitz of Premisla acquired his strange nickname because of his clothing. Every Friday afternoon, upon donning his Shabbos garb, he physically grew nearly a foot taller; hence the name “The Long One!”


Rabbi Ahron Kunda

ועשיתם את חוקתי ואת משפטי תשמרו (ויקרא כה:יח)

Keep My decrees, and safeguard My laws (Vayikra 25:18)

Chukim are the part of Torah which we fulfill even though we cannot logically understand their reason. The mitzvah of Parah Adumah (Bamidbar 19:1-22) was given to us as a means for Taharah, of attaining ritual purity. This mitzvah personifies the concept of a chok because, while it purifies the impure, it causes the pure to become impure. Although the Pesukim are primarily discussing the Tumah produced by a corpse, it is applicable to all types of Tumah, as the Ramban notes that all kinds of Tumah are a byproduct of death.
We have become accustomed to the fact that a physical being cannot live forever, but this is not essentially so. Hashem told Adam that if he were to eat from the Eitz Hada’as, he would die on that day. The Ramban explains that Hashem warned Adam that eating from the Eitz Hada’as would transform him into a mortal being. Had Adam not transgressed, the body would have been forever kept alive through its connection with its spiritual counterparts. This means that physicality is not the cause of mortality; rather, because it is detached from the source of life, the body cannot attain eternity.
What the sin accomplished was that the physical became independent. No longer would the physical necessarily be a part of spiritual life. It could now exist as an entity in and of itself. This disengagement caused a great impurity to develop around it. The Tumah greatly diminished the flow of spirituality from the source of life to the physical world.
The greatest consequence of this transgression was the effect it had upon man’s intellect. A vague discernment between good and bad replaced a once vivid knowledge of truth. This vague perception causes man to follow his physical self rather than the spiritual. This discernment is alluded to in the name, Eitz Hada’as.
Counteracting these effects has been man’s work ever since. The response must be the opposite of what was caused, to surrender his physical da’as to the spiritual. This perhaps is why Taharah is effected by a process which is beyond the human intelligence.
Hashem in his kindness has not left us without a method for success. The Gemara (Brachos 63b) says, “Man must kill himself in the tent of Torah,” meaning, one must lay to rest his physical tendencies by making spiritual pursuits a priority. Such a death does not produce impurity; to the contrary, it produces purity and subsequently life. With it one is able is to “kill” death. The Torah enables man to take the physical and return it to its original place. This can only be done through subjecting one’s intellect to the truth of Torah.
The Beis Halevi says that the Parsha of Parah Adumah not only shows us that we cannot fathom its depth. It tells us that the entire Torah has a dimension beyond our understanding.
Part of learning Torah is subjecting one’s understanding to the Torah, which causes such an effect that Tumah dissipates on its own. The Torah then reconnects us with Hashem, the quintessential form of Taharah, the very opposite of death. Torah brings Klal Yisrael to a level where “ישראל ואורייתה והקוש ברוך הוא חד הוא”, “Yisrael and the Torah and HaKadosh Baruch Hu are all one” (Zohar, Acharei Mos).
Rabbeinu Bechaya says that the word “Chok” is derived from the word “Chakikah,” to etch or engrave. Specifically, this terminology is used to convey that the Torah enables a reconnection between one’s body and soul, not merely like that of two objects such as ink on paper, but like etching in stone, which becomes a single fused entity.