Weekly Torah Section: Chukat (Statute) Numbers 19:1-22:1, HafTorah Judges 11:1-33
In Judges we read about a crisis that had come upon the people of Gilead – a territory to the Northeast of what is the land of Israel today. The people or leaders of Gilead asked Jephthah, ( Ephtach in Hebrew), to save them from the Ammonite King who was demanding their surrender. Jephthah first tried diplomacy but that didn’t work. He then goes out and defeats the Ammonites but at a high cost. Before going into battle he made an oath or vow to G-d. What was that vow? Look in Judges 11:31. Why did he make such a vow? Did he not know what the Torah said? Yes in fact he recited the past history of the Jewish people to the King of Ammon. So he did know the Torah. He was not ignorant so why did he make this vow? Could it have been pride or arrogance? In Leviticus 27:4 it says that a female vowed to the L-rd could be redeemed for 30 shekels of silver donated to the sanctuary. So even after making the vow he could have redeemed his daughter for 30 shekels of silver.
Another, maybe even more important fact was Ephtach’s past and present. His brothers kicked him out of Gilead and his home at an early age because he was illegitimate and had a different mother. He ran to Tob and hung out with worthless (empty in Hebrew) men and went out raiding. He then was brought in by the leaders of Gilead and given the highest place of responsibility. He had no spiritual preparation, no time of getting grounded or mentored. He was thrown in to a place where he was ill prepared to spiritually handle the task. No wonder he fell so quickly. Have we ever seen that happen in congregations today? What usually happens to the person? We have a responsibility to make sure people are prepared spiritually, not just because they have some skill or are available, but that they have been disciple and brought into a place of maturity. Also, we should not allow ourselves to be put in a place of spiritual responsibility that we are not mature enough to handle.
The Torah section begins in Chapter 19, verse 1 of Numbers. It is called “Chukat” or statute in English. In the Torah these are usually seen as those teachings in which there appears no rational explanation.
Can any of you explain the red heifer instructions rationally? Does G-d ever give us something to do that just must be received and obeyed by faith? Yes, I think so. Do any of you have an example? Why a red cow? This is also the only place a female cow is used in a sacrifice. Why does the person preparing the ashes become unclean from them, but then uses them to make the person who is unclean clean? My point is, don’t automatically disqualify something because it might not make rational sense. It could truly be G-d speaking to you. Be ready to hear from G-d in whatever way He chooses to communicate with you.
Now we get to the sin of Moses and Aaron that caused them to not enter the Promised Land. What was it and why was it such a big deal. It could seem like Moses and Aaron got a 20 year sentence for jay walking. What did they do that was so serious? Rather it is like what is written in Luke 12:48. Where much is given much is required. A child is given more leeway than an adult. A stain on blue jeans is not such a problem but the same stain on a silk tie renders it unwearable. In some ways this is where Moses and Aaron found themselves. It is also where we find ourselves – for unto us truly much has been given. We can’t behave like a child for unto us much has been given. We dare not misuse what we have been given. We are held to a higher standard as was Moses.