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D'var Torah - Perashat Chukat

06/21/2018 05:00:06 PM


Rabbi Hayyim Kassorla

A synopsis of this week's reading: The laws of the Red Heifer, a mixture of which is used to purify one who is contaminated by contact with death. The journey continues; Miriam dies and is buried. The people complain about a lack of potable water. Violating G-d's direct command, Moses strikes a rock to produce water. Moses is punished by not being able to enter the Promised Land. Edom refused the people access through its territory. Aaron dies and the people mourn. The people engage the Canaanites in battle.

Questions posed by the reading

  1. What makes a legitimate complaint in Judaism? What can we question and have it not be considered apostasy? The people begin to complain that they are going to die in the wilderness. They are tired of Manna, water is scarce; they feel their lives are in jeopardy. They murmur and complain against G-d and Moses. G-d reaches the ends of His wits and sends serpents to afflict them. Finally, they repent of their words and G-d sends them healing. At what point do our complaints (and actions) cross the line of apostasy?
  2. This week’s reading has the problematic issue of Moses being punished for striking the rock instead of speaking to us. His punishment, as we all know, is that he is denied the privilege of entering the Land. Why do you think he was punished in this fashion? Was the punishment just?


  1. A legitimate complaint is one in which we see an injustice against our fellow man. Judaism has allowed leniency in many of these issues – e.g. Pekuah Nefesh to violate the Shabbat when life is at risk, Halakhic interpretations in occasional ritual matters etc. Complaints are legitimate when the spirit of Judaism is at risk.
  2. Some of G-d’s edicts are beyond human comprehension. It does not seem just to punish Moses by not allowing him to enter the Land after all that he went through to bring the people to this place. On the other hand, one would think that Moses would understand the severity of not obeying G‑d’s rulings exactly as given.


What do you think?

Shabbat Shalom

Thu, October 1 2020 13 Tishrei 5781