By Dan Shuman
This week’s Torah Reading is Parshat Chukat. Chukat means Law. The Parsha begins: “Zot Chukat Hatorah”, “This is the law of the Torah”.
The commandments are divided into three categories, Mishpatim, Edot and Chukim. Mishpatim are those commandments that are logical and intuitive such as those Mitzvot that govern our relationship with our fellow man ex: business ethics, Tzedaka, honoring ones parents etc.
Edot are those Mitzvot we might not have thought of on our own, but once commanded, we can appreciate their inner significance. An example is Shabbat, one day a week in which we remember that G-d creates the world. A day in which we take time to focus on our inner spiritual self, divorced from the hustle and bustle of worldly pursuits. Additional examples are the Holidays that commemorate past events of our people and allow us to relive them and their lessons
Chukim are those Mitzvot that are beyond our understanding such the Mitzvah discussed at the opening of this week’s Parsha, the Para
Aduma or Red Heifer.
The Torah introduces this Mitzvah as “This is the Chuka of the Torah” teaching us that ALL Mitzvot, of the ENTIRE Torah, even those which we have an understanding and appreciation of their significance, must be performed with the approach of a Chuka. Just as we perform a Chuka because G-d asked us to, not based on our appreciation of its significance, so too every Mitzvah should be performed because G-d asked us to. That, in essence, is the foundation of every relationship. Not ourselves but the person we have a relationship with or in case of the Torah and Mitzvot, G-d.
This in fact is something etched into our essence and is inseparable from our core identity. This is alluded to in the word Chuka which is etymologically related to the word chakika which means engraved. This relationship with G-d is engraved in the souls and core of every
Jew as the following story illustrates:
In the 1940s an emissary of the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe visited a small town to encourage the local Jewish community in its observance of Judaism. Upon entering the office of a local Jewish businessman, the businessman began writing a check as a donation for the Rabbi. Seeing this, the Rabbi remarked that he hadn’t come for a donation. “What then did you come for?” asked the businessman. The Rabbi explained: “In Europe, many of the small towns did not have their own Torah scribe to check the Torah scrolls in the synagogues of the local community. So scribes from the big cities would travel from town to town to check the Torah scrolls, and in case a letter had faded with time, they would fill it in. So too, said the Rabbi, every Jew is like a letter in the Torah scroll and with time a Jew’s practice of Judaism could become a little faded. So I travel from town to town to help each Jew fill in their letter and bring their Judaism to the forefront and a place of prominence in their lives.”
The Rabbi returned to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York and upon recounting the episode with the businessman the Rebbe commented that he had one correction. “Each Jew, said the Rebbe, is not only like a letter in a Torah scroll, as those letters could G-d forbid become entirely faded and disappear. A Jew, said the Rebbe, is like a letter in the Tablets Moses received at Mount Sinai. The letters in those tablets
are engraved in the stone, so no matter what, those letters can never fade or be erased. If some dust settles in the letter one merely has to blow away the dust to reveal the letter in all its original beauty.
We see from this a beautiful new dimension of Tikkun Olam. Olam which means world is etymologically connected to the word Helem which means hidden and concealed. This world is a place in which the Creator hid himself and it’s our mission as Jews (a Light unto the Nations) to light up, uncover and reveal the true essence of all things. To bring to the forefront and to a place of prominence, G-d, the Creator of all life. And as with all things the place to start is in our own homes and our own lives, by recognizing that our connection to
G-d is engraved in our core and we are inseparable from Him and the Torah. As the Zohar states’ The Jewish people, The Torah and G-d are all one. Or as our Parsha puts it “Zot Chukat HaTorah.”
Dan Shuman is the Executive Vice President at Shuman Plastics