Parshas Chukas

In this week’s Parsha, Chukas, we learn about the classic inexplicable Chok, the Para Aduma. Chazal tell us that Shlomo HaMelech, the wisest of all men, was capable of understanding the motive and purpose of every Mitzva, until he reached Para Aduma. The question arises, what was so unique about the Chok of Para Aduma? Dozens of Mitzvos are categorized as Chukim, and to understand why scales make a fish more “pure” than a scale-less one or why split hooves are better than closed ones is no less mysterious to me than why a red cow can remove the defilement of death. In fact Rashi gives a rough explanation of the significance of the Para Aduma, that the mother cow comes to atone for its sinful, golden child and the aveira of Chet HaEgel. While inevitably not a comprehensive and all encompassing explanation, it is not less than what he understand of the numerous other Chukim.

It seems to me that Shlomo HaMelech’s issue was not with the mysterious nature of Chukim in general, and he understood the significance of all of them, including the Para Aduma. Rather, his problem was comprehending the inherent contradiction in the process of purifying those who were Tamei, while simultaneously rendering those Tahor impure. What troubled Shlomo HaMelech was that the Mitzvos are not naturally contradictory or inconsistent, and Tuma is the opposite of Tahara.

In the other 612 Mitzvos of the Torah, sanctity is a contradiction to profanity, and the reverse. The natural state of events in the spiritual world parallels that of the physical, where light and darkness cannot exist in conjunction. In our daily life, the more we dedicate ourselves to learning Torah, keeping Mitzvos and other methods of achieving Kedusha, has the inevitable consequence of distancing ourselves from the opposite. A Mitzva whose performance could simultaneously lead one to Tuma and Kedusha is incomprehensible.

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