God is Not One of Us
The parsha of Chukat emphasizes to us the inscrutable nature of our
relationship to the Creator. God is not human in any form or understandable
manner. Therefore God always remains beyond our reach and logic. This is
emphasized to us in the commandment that appears at the beginning of the
parsha concerning the parah adumah – the red cow – and its attendant details
The rabbis have already warned us that this is the ultimate “choik” – the
law of God that is beyond all human comprehension. It is the ultimate “just
do it” area of Jewish life and ritual. And, though any human reasoning will
not fathom the commandment of parah adumah – the red cow – itself, I think
that there is an appreciation of an insight into why there should be such
unfathomable laws and commandments in the Torah altogether.
A famous actor/comedian once said only semi-facetiously that “any club that
would have me as a member is a club that I do not wish to belong to.” Well,
in a much more exalted fashion, Judaism states that any God who is
completely understandable to me – a human being with all of the limitations
inherent is so being – cannot really be my God.
It demeans the Jewish concept of the Creator of such a complex universe to
state that such a Creator must be understandable to us. The prophet already
stated this principle succinctly when he said that God’s message to us is
that, “My thoughts are not your thoughts nor are My ways your ways.” The
commandment of parah adumah – the red cow – drives that point home to all
who study Torah.
If any human being was entitled to enter the Land of Israel and realize
one’s life’s ambition, it was certainly our leader and teacher Moshe. And,
yet, we see again in this week’s parsha that this goal is denied to him. All
of the commentators to the Torah attempt to deal with the problem of “why”
To our human logic, the punishment does not really fit the transgression.
Moshe’s exclusion from entering the Land of Israel has been debated over
many millennia in the works of rabbinic scholarship. After all of the
explanations and reasons and theories that have been advanced over the ages
the question “why” still looms large. It is the second great “choik” – an
event and decree beyond our understanding – that dominates the Torah
narrative of this week’s parsha.
We bow our heads in acceptance of Heavenly decrees in our personal and
national life as well. The great Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern
(Halperin) of Kotzk pithily summed up the matter as follows “”For the
believer, there are no questions; for the skeptic and agnostic there are no
Sooner or later in life we are blindsided by events over which we have no
control or understanding. Even the wisest and most brilliant amongst us are
left wondering as to “how” and “why.” That is our fate as humans in dealing
with the Creator and His ways and thoughts, so to speak. And that is the
powerful and practical lesson of this week’s parsha.
Rabbi Berel Wein