Chukat: The Radical and Holy Ishbitz

The Parsha of Chukat teaches the inexplicable law of Para Adumah-the red Heifer. The Torah teaches us about a red heifer that is slaughtered and burnt to ashes. We are not introduced to what this is in reference to until verse 11- touching of the dead and purification as a result of death.

The Holy Ishbitzer goes really radical. He takes this inexplicable law and challenges all the law. In Chapter 21 verse 10 he explains the significance of the travel to a place called “Ovot”. He says it is similar to “Avot”-father of wisdom.He connects this place-“Ovot” to an idea in Tractate Brachot- page 54a which says,” it is a time to do for Gd- for they have nullified your Torah.” The Ishbitzer learns out from this that sometimes one must use wisdom (like the Av) and act out outside the law in order to do Hashem’s will.

Huh? What is Ishbitz talking about? This is the parsha of following the law without even understanding what you are doing. This is the parsha which talks of the commandments with no rational basis-just blind adherence. This should be the last place he talks about going outside the law to do Gd’s will.

The Holy Isbitzer adds one more idea. Now that the holy temple is destroyed, Hashem now resides in Halacha or the “four cubits of the law.” This may be the answer. In exile we must find refuge and tether our ourselves to Halacha, or the Halachic method. Once we are redeemed or live on a higher spiritual plane, halacha will be secondary and we will indeed be able to act outside the restraints of halacha to achieve a higher purpose. In exile or in a state of less purity, we need the Halacha-understandable or not to find Gd.

As the SD said, radical and not totally understandable. But isn’t that the lesson of Chukat anyway. Shabbat Shalom.

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