- One of the most perplexing topics in Judaism is the red cow. This week’s Parsha refers to it in the first Pasuk (sentence) as a chok. What is a chok? There are three types of commandments that G-d bestowed on us. One is Testimonies – This commandment refers to either an historical event or testifies to some aspect of our faith; examples are Shabbat, which attests to our belief. G-d created the world in six days. Holidays commemorate the exodus from Egypt in which we became a nation or receiving of the Torah, etc.; or Tzitzit and Tefillin which demonstrates G-d’s ruler ship. The second is Civil Laws – which is necessary to maintain safety and survival of human society. The last is Chukim – these laws were not given any rhyme nor reason and requires a tremendous test of faith to keep. We, especially in a democratic society, are programmed to have answers for everything. Such is not the case with Chukim. A few examples of Chukim are Shatnes; we are prohibited to wear linen and wool. The red cow is a chok as well.
- Astonishingly, the red cow purifies (an example, although it doesn’t apply today, if one has contact with a dead body, he is deemed impure); however, at the same time, it contaminates the ones who attempted to purify it.
Miriam, Moshe’s older sister, dies. Unfortunately, human nature is such that we don’t appreciate people until they’re not with us anymore. Because of the merit of Miriam, G-d provided water to the Jewish nation through “the well.” Now that she passed on, the well stopped providing water. As a result, the Jews complained once again to their leaders, Moshe and Aharon.
G-d instructed Moshe and Aharon to take their staff and speak to the rock and it will provide water. Moshe did not follow G-d’s instruction precisely; he hit the rock, leaving out the speaking part. This incident cost him a chance to enter the land of Israel. The power of speech is vital, and G-d expected Moshe to enhance G-d’s presence in the world through this power. One of the major tools we are given is speech, and it’s our job to make good use of it. This was a perfect opportunity; however, Moshe did not capitalize on.
Moshe asks the Edomites (Eisav) permission if the Israelites can pass through their land in order to get to their destination – the promised land – faster. “We’ll pay you for water and all the necessities,” Moshe said. The Edomites not only refused, they assembled their heavily armed forces at the borders preparing for war. So G-d instructed Moshe to turn away from them and take a different route.
Out of the big three, Moshe, Aharon, and Miriam, Aharon’s death was the most emotional among the nation. He was dearly beloved by all. There is a word added in the blessing that all Kohanim say before they bless the people “be-ahava -with love.” The Kohanim should have such love for the nation as Aharon had. In fact, there are sages who say if a Kohen had some strife with an individual, he should not go up to bless the people.
Once again, the Israelites complained, which resulted in disastrous consequences. One can say when a loved one passes away a person is at a very vulnerable state and is susceptible to negativity. Perhaps, Aharon’s death had such an effect on the Israelites. They claimed the manna (heavenly food) was not up to par to their standards. For this, G-d punished them. He brought Poisonous snakes among the complainers. One of the punishments the snake encountered for enticing Chava (Eve) to sin was that he will never enjoy his food; it will always be tasteless. The Israelites did not appreciate the manna and its multitude of different flavors; therefore, they will be punished by a creature less fortunate.
This “song of the well” has many secret brachot attached to it. It’s worthwhile to read and understand it thoroughly with all the different commentaries. Some have a custom to say this pasuk before mussaf Amida of Rosh Chodesh.
Credit to:Rabbi Avi Matmon