Torah Portion: Chukat (Regulation) Numbers 19-22
HafTorah: Judges 11:1-33
NT John 3:9-21, 4:3-30, 12:27-50
In this Torah section we cover many things that will give us the opportunity to grow in our spiritual understanding. We see the death of two people who were two of only a few still left alive from the original ones who left Egypt. One of those who died was Moses’ sister Miriam. In D’Varim (Deut) 24:9 we read a curious statement concerning her, “remember what G-d did to her on the way from Egypt.” This is one of only six things Torah commands us to remember each day. So what did G-d do to her? She complained about Moses and G-d struck her with leprosy. So what was her sin? Her sin was lashon harah or gossip. This should tell us something of how the Father sees this sin. If we remember it daily it should impress us and remind us how G-d sees a loose tongue. Even her punishment is connected with the sin. Leprosy is looked at as a slow death. When we speak evil of someone it can have the same effect. It can slowly destroy them. When we gossip it usually does not stop with the person with whom we shared our story. It takes on a life of its own and like a disease, spreads from person to person infecting them all with the words we spoke. I pray each of us remember Miriam each day and with G-d’s help we will not be a part of this sin of lashon harah.
Another interesting point about Miriam’s death is found in Numbers 20:1-2. We read of her death and in verse 2 we read, “there was no water.” The Sages connect the two saying that there was a rock that followed Israel through the desert that provided water to the people. At Miriam’s death the water ceased to flow. There is nothing written here that tells of this but we do find some hint in I Cor. 10:1-4. Here this rock is said to be the Messiah.
This Torah section begins with a Chok. These are laws that cannot be explained by human reasoning. Most but not all have to do with ritual purity and impurity. There are no shades to these laws – they are either black or white. The law to not murder for example seems clear. But then the Torah goes on to differentiate between manslaughter, accidental or no fault murder. All of which carry different punishments or in the case of accidental murder no punishment at all. Choks are not so. You either are ritually clean or you are unclean. These laws introduce an element of absoluteness into our lives. These are an integral, singular fulfillment of G-d’s will. These laws keep us in touch with the underlying truth that all of our deeds, in the final analysis, should first and foremost be seen as of significance in our walk with G-d through each day. We may have, and should have priorities in our lives but from the top to the bottom of our list they all should be filtered through the absoluteness of G-d’s will for us as we go through each day. So, when we read this law of the Red Heifer we may not be able to reason it out but we must see it as one of those reflections of the unchanging G-d we serve. Moses and Aaron forgot that for a moment when they hit the rock G-d commanded them to speak to and it cost then dearly.
Now to the people’s rebellion in Numbers 21:4-9. They complained about where they were and that they were living in a desert. They were tired of it, depressed, and downcast. So to shock them out of it G-d sends snakes to bite them and some died. The people see their error and confess they have sinned and ask Moses to pray for them. G-d tells him to make a snake and put it on a pole so the people could look up at the snake and be healed. They had to look up. We have to look up. John 3:14 tells us that Yeshua must be lifted up like the snake in the wilderness. We must lift up our eyes and realize we are not forsaken but G-d loves us and has not left us.