Torah Portion: Hukath (Regulation) Numbers (B’Midbar) 19:1-22:1
HafTorah: Judges 11:1-33
New Testament: John 3:9-21; 4:3-30; 12:27-50
Tonight we look at one of the harder things in Torah to understand. The Red Heifer here in the opening verse we read hukath Torah – The decree of the Torah. It is as if the Torah is saying “This is the point of the whole Torah.” A verse in the New Testament, Mark 12:30-31, reflects the same kind of idea. Here Yeshua gives an answer to a question that was meant to trip Him up. Love G-d and love your neighbor. What do the two have to do with each other?
Coming in contact with a dead body made you ritually unclean. Here in this Torah command we read where in order to be made ritually clean, so one could enter the Miskan, one had to be cleansed by the ashes of the Red Heifer. Why not just avoid a dead body? It was expected that G-d’s people would become unclean by touching a dead body from time to time. This could happen when a relative dies, or a friend, co-worker, all kinds of situations. What is expected of us by our faith and even by society? We show respect and compassion and love toward the deceased and their families. In past years, in Judaism and also in Christianity the family prepared the body of a loved one by washing it and preparing it for burial. The point is that here in B’Midbar, G-d is telling the people, “I expect you to put yourself in a state of ritual uncleanness for the sake of your family, neighbor or friend. I expect you to inconvenience yourself for someone else. Why because you love Me and because you do love Me you love your fellow man. The same thing Yeshua said in His answer. It isn’t about us. It isn’t even all about us and G-d. It is about us and G-d and our fellow man. That is what Torah says and that is what Yeshua tells us. Not for thanks or to build our ego but just because of who we are and because of who our G-d is. We are called to get our hands dirty for the sake of Him who loves us. So don’t isolate yourselves from the world. Get out and bring the light of G-d to people who may never say thanks. But that doesn’t matter. May G-d give each of us such an opportunity for it truly is the point of life.
I also want to look at the symbolism of the Red Heifer to the New Testament. The writer of Hebrews mentions it specifically in Hebrews 9:11-14. As the Red Heifer and the sin offerings were burned outside the camp so Yeshua suffered outside the camp (Jerusalem). As the Red Heifer cleaned a person from the defilement of the contact with the dead so Yeshua cleanses us from sin which leads to spiritual death.
Then in B’Midbar 19:19 we read of the process an unclean person had to go through. He was sprinkled with the ashes and water of the Red Heifer on the third day and on the seventh day. Then he passed through the water (Mikvah).
In the Hebrew scriptures we see the third day referenced as associated with resurrection and of course Yeshua rose on the third day. What was important about the third day and sacrifices? After three days whatever was left had to be burned because it had begun to decay. Yeshua had to rise on the third day.
But why the seventh day? Also in Judaism seven is the number of completion – final – redemption – entering into G-d’s presence. (Sabbath is a picture of this) So seven can symbolize that final victory over death. (I Cor. 15:54-55 based on Isaiah 25:8, Hosea 13:14)
One last point: Messiah and the rock. (Numbers 20:1-2) In Exodus 17:1-7 we read of a water crisis and then not another word for almost 40 years. Why? Sages say that the rock from Exodus followed Israel and gave them water until here. We see the same idea in I Cor. 10:4 where Shaul mentions a spiritual rock that followed them and He equates it with Messiah. As the rock in the desert gave water for the body Messiah gives water for the spirit. We have this rock that sustains our spirit. We must not neglect to drink of it daily. If not, we lose touch with the Father and began to complain of thirst, when really the water was there all the time. Drink daily and live to touch a world.