Perashá- SHABAT JUKAT-BALAK
In a sense, the Israelites had fallen into a false sense of security. Despite going from one disaster to another, Moses was always there to put out the fire. Moses and his brother Aaron led the nation from slavery to freedom, from Mount Sinai to the top of the Land of Israel. Along the way there were complaints, disagreements and even a large-scale rebellion, but the leadership of Moses and Aaron was always present to avoid disaster and guide the people. Now suddenly, out of the blue, the people are informed that the end of their leadership and their lives has come.
It is easy to tell the story in broad terms: it all started with another of the many complaints of the
Israelites, in this case complained about the water. A miracle solution is presented and then the unexpected happens: a death sentence. What changed? Why was this incident different from the others? Why this sentence, death and disaster at that time?
Let’s analyze: Hashem spoke to Moses to say, “Take the rod and gather the community together, you and your brother Aaron, and speak to the rock in their sight, and it will give its water; you shall draw water for them from the rock and give drink to the assembly and its beasts. Moses took the rod from before Hashem, as he had commanded him. Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation before the rock, and Moses said to them, ‘Listen now, you rebels! Shall we draw water for you from this rock? So Moses raised his hand and struck the rock with his rod twice, and water came out abundantly, and the assembly and its beasts drank. Then Hashem said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not make them trust in Me, to sanctify Me in the sight of the Children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given you”.
What was their mistake? At what point did Moses and Aaron show a lack of faith? What was the nature of their sin? For millennia commentators debated the deeper meaning of the text. If the Torah chose to honor Moses by suppressing the details of his sin, the result was the opposite: it led to all sorts of accusations against Moses and Aaron to explain the harsh punishment they received. Was it Moses’ anger? Although it is not explicitly mentioned in the Toranic text, did he not precisely fulfill the Creator’s instructions? Or was there something else?
The context may be important: this week’s parashah begins with the laws of the red cow. The ashes of this cow are an antidote to the ritual impurity that generates death. Rashi comments on the particular term used to describe this law: This is the statute of the Torah: For Satan and the nations of the world mock Israel, saying, What is this commandment, and what is its purpose? That is why the Torah wrote about it that it is a statute (JOK), implying: I (Hashem) have decreed it, you have no right to question it.
Rashi explains that a Jok is a law whose logic is elusive, a decree that we must accept without questioning it, simply accept it on the impulse of faith. Often this kind of law tortures us, leading us to doubt ourselves, our logic, our reasoning. In general, it is understood that Rashi’s commentary, which in turn is based on a rabbinical position, refers to the illogical and even paradoxical nature of this particular ritual: the person with ritual impurity becomes “magically” pure by being sprinkled with the ashes of the red cow, while the person who prepared this formula becomes impure.
HASHEM, help us to study, understand and fulfill the Divine Commandments.