Chukah ~ Numbers 19:1 – 22:1
The weekly Torah portion (Hebrew: פָּרָשַׁת הַשָּׁבוּעַ Parashat ha-Shavua, popularly just parasha) is a section of the Torah read publicly and aloud in weekly Jewish prayer services, usually in full during the Shabbat (Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath). Each week, the ECI Young Adults are providing us with a commentary on the week’s parasha.
This week’s parashat ‘Chukah’ (חקת) teaches us about the Lord’s commandment to Moses and Aaron on a statute of the law (hukat hatorah – חוקת התורה) – one that now sounds as a mystery to us: ‘the ashes red heifer for a purification of sin’ (Numbers 19).
Israel was to take a red heifer and take it outside the camp, there it would be slaughtered and burned in the presence of Aaron’s son: Eleazar. He was to sprinkle the blood of the heifer seven times towards the Tent of Meeting and subsequently take cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them unto the burning heifer. The ash that would remain of the heifer was to be used in the water of cleansing: the people of Israel (and the aliens living among them) were to wash itself with it to purify themselves with this from sin.
Then in the subsequent chapter, the topic of water shows up again (Numbers 20). In relation to the quarrel that the people of Israel have with Moses and Aaron, a command is given to Moses to hit the rock and provide the people with the water. Water had previously been discussed in the chapter on the red heifer, provided for the purpose of purification of sin. But now it is used to picture the rebellion of the people and even the rebellion of: Moses’ himself.
In Numbers 20:12 we find the Lord responding by stating something heartfelt to the people and their leaders: ‘Because you did not trust in Me enough (…)’. The people and the leadership had not trusted in the Lord – did they care at all about the purification from sin by means of water and the ashes of a red heifer? Or were they only occupied and worried about ‘grain, figs, grapevines, pomegranates (…) and water (..) to drink’? (Numbers 20:5) The whole matter has serious consequences and leads to the punishment of both the people and Moses: they would not enter the land that is promised – they would not enter His rest.
This week we see what has already been provided for: purification from sin by means of something that is more than a red heifer (Heb 9:12, 19) – His Son, Jesus Christ, Himself. Moses had the duty to remain calm and be obedient to the words of the Lord: he only had to speak to the rock (“Rock!”), and water would pour out from it. There was no need for strive, no need for hitting any rocks; but just to trust and to speak to the rock would be sufficient. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience (Heb 4:11).
The European Coalition for Israel is a unique grassroots movement, which is seeking to promote better relations between Europe and Israel through advocacy and education. More information: www.ec4i.org