Parshas Chukas/Chukas-Balak:
 By: Yaacov Silverstein
e@mail: hm16@popeye.cc.biu.ac.il
HomePage: http://faculty.biu.ac.il/~hm16/

This Dvar Torah was prepared in the merit and memory of my grandfather: Rav Yitzchak Zev Ben Yisroel Mordechai HaKohen Solomon

One year since the passing of my Grandfather on the 14th of Tamuz 5758:


In this week's Parsha, we are told of the sudden death of Aharon HaKohen.

The Ohr HaChaim gives on this Pasuk various different explanations, one of them is that "the death of Aharon was sudden, and any death which happens suddenly, brings greater and deeper grief to those who were close to the departed. Thus the whole Bnei Yisroel felt the pain of the death of Aharon. While by Moshe Rabbeinuh, the Bnei Yisroel knew when he was about to die, thus even though he was their great leader, the grief wasn't as strong, since they were notified ahead of time, about his approaching death."

Like Aharon HaKohen, my grandfather z"l passed away a suddenly. He was a healthy man for his age, and there was no warning, thus it hits us harder.

Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch teaches that Aharon had a special quality, he "loved kindness". He loved to bring Korbanos (offerings in the Temple) for the congregation.

Nowadays we don't have Korbanos, we have Tefillah (Prayer) instead of Korbanos.

The same Mida was found by my grandfather, for he was a "Baal Tefillah" (cantor) and when you heard his Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur davening, you could hear and feel that he meant it from deep in his heart. He was a messenger of the congregation, and did it with all his heart.

The death of Miriam is also mentioned in this week's Parsha, preceding the death of these two righteous leaders, we are told about the Para Aduma, which teaches about the remaining of ones Nefesh after they die. That even though Miriam and Aharon died, their teachings and Midos live on till this day. For the body only holds ones Nefesh, and it goes away when a person dies. The good deeds that a person does lives on.

When one mourns the loss of a loved one, this can actually enhance one's spirituality. Grief is a natural phenomenon, yet it can deeply affect one's emotions. It can easily drain one's energies and ones interest in life.

When grief occurs in ones life, this should not take him off the right path and render him inactive. If one truly appreciates spirtuality and understands his personal loss from a death, the survivor may be stimulated to compensate for his loss by increasing on his own spirituality.

The rituals of mourning are there to help a person dissipate his grief as one ventilates his feelings. As one's grief is dissipated, one can slowly return to leading a normal life and thus pursuing the goals of spirituality, which is supposed to be done with Simcha.

When one recites the Kaddish, the one who is in mourning does not mention the name of the deceased whom he is reciting Kadish for. Rather, one recites "May his great name grow exalted and sanctified."

The mourner is thus saying that he will sanctify Hashem's name by trying to fill the empty spot left by the deceased.

There is no way for me to fill this empty spot, but at least I can hope that these words of Torah, and the Divrei Torah written in his memory the past year, have helped me and others reach a higher level of spirituality, in our thirsts of Torah.

(Twerski on Spirituality, Rav S.R. Hirsch, Ohr HaChaim, Echoes of the Maggid)

Parshas - Chukas - :

Pasuk (19:1):

"This is the decree of the Torah..."

This week's Parsha starts off by telling us "This is the decree of the Torah..." and continues with the Mitzvah of "Parah Adumah".

The Sages explain that the Parah Adumah (red cow) is a prime example of a Torah decree which is beyond human understanding.

Since the laws of the Torah are the products of Hashem's intelligence, any human inability to understand the laws of the Torah, indicates a limitation of the human mind and not Hashem's (the creator).

In the Gemarah Kedushin(31:b)we learn:

"Rav Yehuda said in the name of Shemuel, they asked Rebbi Eliezer, 'How far does one have to show respect to one's parents?'

He said to them, go out and have a look at this gentile, Damah Ben Nesina, and look how he treated his father. He had precious stones which were needed for the Breastplate (Ephod - which was worn by the Kohen Gadol). The Chachamim offered him a large sum, however the keys to the precious stones were under his fathers pillow. Since his father was sleeping, he didn't want to wake him up.

Since he acted with such respect to his father, the next year, Hashem blessed him with a Parah Adumah. The Chachamim, after hearing about this Parah Adumah, came again to his house, now they requested the Parah Adumah, and were willing to a pay high sum for it.

The gentile told them that I know that you are willing to pay any sum, but I am only asking for the sum equal to the amount which you offered the previous year for the precious stones. I am only asking for the sum which I lost by respecting my father, and not waking him up for the keys."

The difference:


The Jewish outlook is different.

When a Jew does a Mitzvah, like honoring his parents, he should not be willing to sell the Mitzvah, even for all the money in the world.

This gentile did a Mitzvah of respecting his father, yet he was willing to sell it for money. Also, the following year, he still remembered that he did a Mitzvah.

When a person is on a higher level, he forgets about the Mitzvahs which he did, and thus doesn't become haughty.

Rav Moshe Leib from Sasov writes that we say on Rosh Hashana, "Hashem remembers all that is forgotten". When a person does a Mitzvah, and he forgets about it, meaning he thinks that he still is in need of doing more Mitzvahs to become "Zacai"(acquited of sins), then Hashem remembers the forgotten. However if a person remembers the Mitzvohs that he has done and he feels highly of himself, then Hashem, as if (KeVayochal), forgets those Mitzvos. The same is true if a person does an Aveirah and forgets about it, and thus doesn't do Teshuva. Hashem remembers it. However, if a person remembers his sins and feels that he has to do Teshuva and tries to repent, then Hashem forgets his sins.(Sefer Darcei Mussar)

When you do a Mitzvah, such as giving Tzedakah, if you feel that you did a Mitzvah and you feel important, the reward might not be "around the corner". But if you do a Mitzvah without feeling that you deserve a reward for your "great deeds", many times you will see the Beracha in return. For when we forget, Hashem remembers.

As Rav Dessler writes, when a person acts Lishma (for the sake of Hashem's commandment), he doesn't attribute any value or importance to his deed. However, as soon as he starts feeling that his actions have value, he becomes conscious of himself and his importance, and is thus no longer a service of "oneness".

Hashem remembers all and forgets no one.

When one goes through hard times and things seem bad all of a sudden Hashem sends us a thin streak of light which leads us out of the darkness.

Parshas - Balak - :

Pasuk (22:28):

"Hashem opened the mouth of the she-donkey, and it said to Bilam...."

We see that Bilam was not at all surprised that his donkey started talking to him. It seemed so normal, that he even answered back to his donkey, that "If only I would have a sword in my hand, I would now kill you."

What is going on here? If we would hear our dog complain to us, we would be shocked, we wouldn't have any courage to even talk back to it, let alone threaten to kill it!!

Why wasn't Bilam amazed by this miracle which just happened to him?

Rav Mordechai Gifter explains that there are two categories of things which occur in this world.

1) Natural happenings (Hashem does through nature).

2) Miracles (Hashem does, out of the realm of nature).

If we would sit down and think it over, nature itself is miraculous. Yet we are already used to it, and what may have once astonished us when we were a kid, is all taken for granted now, when we are adults.

Little kids even get excited by seeing little ants, or a soaring bird, running water...

Bilam was on a level where he realized that there was no difference between a person talking and a donkey talking, for they are both miraculous. He was thus not surprised when his donkey started talking, because to him, it was the same as a human talking.

We see from here, that even someone with tremendous capabilities such as Bilam, who had a very high level of perception, can be such a wicked person. If one has a good intellectual understanding alone, this is no guarantee against sin, as we witnessed ourselves not too long ago.

Bilam reached a high intellectual level, yet he didn't feel what he thought.

Even though Bilam said "May I die a death of the righteous, and may my end be as glorious as theirs", it had no impact on his behavior, whatsoever.

Intellect does not always influence ones behavior. If one intellectually wants to change his way of life, and sees the true life, the life of the Torah, this can be counteracted by making rationalizations against changing his present way of life. It is only when his thoughts and ideas become feelings, that change is likely to occur.

Rabbi A.J Twersky (Living Each Day) brings this idea and ends off by explaining how one can gain mastery over one's feelings, which is the key to change in one's way of life. One must do what one knows to be right, without actually feeling it. By doing this, one will break down the resistance in himself to change, and the desired feelings will start coming out. One must also pray to Hashem for Divine help, in achieving the desired goals.

Rabbi Twersky ends with the following comparison, that when someone is not hungry, he can stimulate his appetite by eating appetizers. Prayer, is our appetizer, which can bring out the proper emotions and feelings, which we wish to attain.