Parshas Chukas 5776
Candle Lighting Time: 8:10 pm
July 15, 2016
Volume 12 Issue 33
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Dvar Torah

Living the Inexplicable 
 By Rabbi Yosef Prupas

Para Aduma , the red heifer, is the paradigm of the inexplicable in the Torah. Yet, there are two medrashim that question its well-known status, both quoted by Rashi. The first medrash compares the mitzvah of parah aduma to the son of the maidservant who sullied the king's palace. The king demanded that the mother of the culprit take responsibility and clean up her son's mess. So too, let the "mother cow," the para aduma, take responsibility for her child, the golden calf and clean up that infamous sin. The medrash seems to imply that there is an explanation for para aduma! A second medrash, which explains how every aspect of the procedure in preparing the para aduma corresponds to the golden calf, compounds the question.
            Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Salant, z"l author of Be'er Yosef, offers an explanation. It seems that although there is a possible way to comprehend the concept of para aduma, there remains one aspect of its procedure that remains unexplainable, namely that it brings impurity to the pure [those involved in its preparation], and purity to the impure. Referring to this King Solomon, the wisest of all men, commented, "I requested wisdom, yet it is distant from me." This being the case, one can posit that Hashem desired that we be exposed on a regular basis to the most bizarre of rituals. Since people regularly become impure when they come in contact with the dead, they therefore are routinely involved with a procedure that is unexplainable. The result is coming to understand that some of Hashem ways are just unexplainable. Knowing this can strengthen one during harder times when things for reasons unknown to us are just not working out, for it is already ingrained in us that a person cannot understand everything.
            Rabbi Salant concludes by saying that with the above we can now understand King David's mysterious words, "Your chukim (statutes) were like music to me at the time of my sojourn." The sages explain that King David was referring to the time he was fleeing from King Shaul and hiding in caves. Although already anointed by Hashem to fill the position of king, David was still fleeing for his life. What can be more frustrating than that? Yet David was able to draw comfort from the "chukim," those mitzvos that are not understandable, to the point that they were like music in his ears. It was through these commandments that he knew one basic rule: We don't understand everything. He therefore had faith in Hashem that there was a reason for all that was happening to him, and he was happy. We know this because all of Psalms were written through prophecy, and in order to receive prophecy one must be in a state of joy.
             May we merit speedily in our day the time when the mitzvah of para aduma will be explained to us, for there will no longer be a need to keep the explanation of some mitzvos hidden. In that era we will no longer experience moments of doubt and frustration and therefore will not need to turn to the "chukim" for comfort. 

Dvar Halacha
Laws of the Three Weeks part 1
By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
In the year 3828 (68 CE) on the 17th day of Tammuz, Titus broke thru the walls of Yerushalayim.  Three weeks later on the 9th day of Av, the 2nd Bais Hamikdash was destroyed.  During that time period over one million men, women, and children were killed.  After the Churban the Jewish people were exiled from our land and tormented by our oppressors.  For close to 2000 years (this year 5776, will be 1948 years since the destruction) the Jewish people have been cast into the role of the "wandering Jew".  Throughout our history we have been persecuted and even until this day we see much anti- Semitism.  Our Chazal teach us, all the tragedies and oppressions the Jewish people have suffered throughout our history, has their roots in the period of Bein Hamitzarim.  We observe every year the "Three Weeks" as a period of commemoration and national mourning over the loss of our homeland of Eretz Yisroel, Yerushalayim and especially of the Bais Hamikdash.
The Rambam [Hilchos Melachim 12:4] writes that the reason why neivim (prophets) and chachamim (sages) mourn for the loss of the Bais Hamikdash is not for the desire to live the glorious life of "the land of milk and honey" and so that the Jewish people the rulers of the world.  Rather they mourn the fact that we do not have the liberty to completely devote ourselves to the study of Torah in order to merit Olam Haba.  We long for the opportunity to become the best people that we can be; to perfecting ourselves like the opportunity our ancestors had.
There are five levels of aveilus (mourning) observed during the Hebrew calendar dates between the17th of Tammuz until the 10th day of Av [the day after Tisha B'Av].  This period is referred to as The Three Weeks.  The closer to Tisha B'Av it is, the degree of mourning intensifies.  The halachos being discussed here are exclusively for the 13 days from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz [17th of Tammuz] until Rosh Chodesh Av [which begins the period that is known as "the Nine Days"].
Chazal teach us that five tragic things happened to the Jewish people on Shivah Asar B'Tammuz; Moshe Rabbeinu broke the 1st luchos [when he saw the Jewish people serving the Golden Calf], the Kohanim were prevented by Nevuchadnezar's army from bringing the korban tamid [which was not brought again until the 2nd Bais Hamikdash], the walls of Yerushalayim were destroyed [which led to the destruction of the 2nd Bais Hamikdash], the Greek general Apastomus publicly burned a Sefer Torah, and an idol was placed in the Bais Hamidash (Mishnah Taanis 26b).  Since these tragedies occurred on Shevah Asar B'Tammuz, Chazal designated this day as a public fast day (Shulchan Aruch 549:1 & Mishneh Berurah 549:2).
It is important to note, the Gemara makes no mention of the restrictions of any activities starting from the Three Weeks.  The Gemara mentions that Chazal wanted to prohibit eating meat all year because of the destruction of the Bais Hamikdash, but they saw that the Jewish people would not be able to handle it (Gemara Bava Basra 60b).  At some point in history, our Chazal instituted that there are restrictions starting from Shiva Asar B'Tammuz, which continue until after Tisha B'Av.  However, it is clear that these restrictions were rooted in the Gemara.
Prohibited activities include; haircutting and shaving, joyful activities [such as music, singing, dancing, and weddings], reciting birchas she'hechiyanu [the blessing recited for buying new things], and other miscellaneous potentially dangerous activities, which we discussed in more detail in the upcoming weeks.

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