Thursday, July 3, 2008
Parshas Chukas - "Holy Cow"
Systematically this weeks Parsha begins with the laws and parameters that surround the Para Aduma (Red Heifer). It then follows with the death of Miriam and Klal Yisrael's insistence that they receive water. As a result Moshe Rabbeinu hits a rock to draw water instead of speaking to it, which he was commanded and is punished by being forbidden entry to the Land of Israel.
The seminal topic of discussion in the weeks Parsha is the Red Heifer. At the beginning of his commentary of this weeks Parsha the Baal HaTurim offers an explanation for the laws that surround the red heifer. He says that the laws that surround it are a kappara (repentance) for the sins that occurred at Sinai. His proof is that the gematria of Para Aduma is the same as the words "Al Avon HaEgel - on the sin of the calf."
When mentioning the topic of the red heifer one cannot help but recall the famous story involving Dama Ben Nisina:
Dama Ben Nisina was approached by the Chachamim as they wished to purchase (for an exorbitant amount of money) a jewel that was to be used for the Kohein's breastplate. Upon researching the wearabouts of the jewel Dama realized that the key to the vault inwhich the jewel was located was under his fathers pillow. Refusing to wake up his father regardless of the loss that the family would incur, Dama turned away the Rabbis because of the dire respect which he had for his father. Years passed and Dama's family was repayed by Hashem by having their cow give birth to a Red Heifer. The Rabbi's returned and paid Dama's family a tremendous amount of money for the heifer so that it could be used in the temple.
One can't help but ask, why was Dama's family specifically repaid with a Red Heifer Hashem could have repaid Dama by giving him direct exorbitant wealth or by giving him power?
The Chiddushei HaRim answers that after Dama refused to wake his father, angels in heaven started criticizing the Jewish people. They claimed, "why don't the Jews treat their parents like this? Would they incur a tremendous loss to do a mitzvah?" To quite the angels Hashem provided Dama with a Red Heifer. To most, a red heifer is nothing more than an odd looking cow. Nothing more and nothing less. To Jews however a Red Heifer holds much value. So much so that one cannot possibly put a price tag on how much it is worth. Hashem quieted the angels by showing them that the Jews would go out of their way and even pay exorbitant costs for a simple cow. Something that non-Jews would never do!