Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Chukas

Humans are Irrational

The Torah interrupts its narrative of the events that befell the Jewish people in the desert with the description of a commandment that admittedly has no rational human understanding in logical terms. Even the great King Solomon, the wisest and most analytical of all humans, was forced to admit that understanding this parsha of the Torah was beyond his most gifted intellect and talents.

If the Torah is meant to instruct us in life and its values, to improve and influence our behavior and lifestyle and to help us achieve our goal of being a holy people then why insert this parsha in the Torah when it can seemingly have no practical impact on our daily life or broaden our understanding of God’s omnipresence in our lives?

Though there is a section of Mishna devoted to the laws and halachic technicalities of the sacrifice of the “red cow” it does not deal with the underlying motives for the existence of this commandment and it also does not address why this parsha is inserted in the midst of the description of the events that occurred in the desert to the generation of Jews who left Egypt and stood at Mount Sinai.

We have historical record and description in the Mishna and from non-rabbinic sources as to the actual performance of the commandment in Temple times. This comes as a reminder of our necessary obeisance to God’s commandments even if they are not always subject to actual human understanding. Yet, some glimmer of comprehension is demanded by us to make this parsha meaningful to us.

I think that perhaps the Torah comes to point out the very fact that human life is in fact always irrational and that human behavior many times defies any logic or good sense. How could the generation that left Egypt and witnessed the revelation at Sinai complain about food when there was adequate Heavenly food? How could they prefer Egypt or the desert itself over living in the Land of Israel? And how could Moshe’s and Aharon’s own tribe and relatives rise against them in defiant and open rebellion?

Are these not basically incoherent and irrational decisions with a terrible downside to them? And yet they occurred and continue to recur constantly in Jewish and general life throughout history. In spite of our best efforts and our constant delusion that we exist in a rational world, the Torah here comes to inform us that that is a false premise.

If everyday life defies logic and accurate prediction then it is most unfair and in fact illogical to demand of Torah and God to provide us with perfect understanding of commandments and laws. The Torah inserts this parsha into the middle of its narrative about the adventures of the Jewish people in the desert to point out that the mysteries of life abound in the spiritual world just as they do in the mundane and seemingly practical world.

One of the great lessons of Judaism is that we are to attempt to behave rationally even if at the very same time, we realize that much in our personal and national lives is simply beyond our understating.

Shabat shalom

Rabbi Berel Wein


Crash course in Jewish history

Rabbi Berel Wein- Jewish historian, author and international lecturer offers a complete selection of CDs, audio tapes, video tapes, DVDs, and books on Jewish history at www.rabbiwein.com


 






ARTICLES ON LECH LECHA:

View Complete List

Uniquely Human
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5762

Worthy of the Brocha!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

Grace Saved
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5765

ArtScroll

To The Place G-d Will Show Us
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5762

“You Can Take the Girl out of Hicksville, but...”
Jon Erlbaum -

The Lech Lecha Test Rates Higher Than The Ur Kasdim Test
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5772

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Lech Lecha: Avraham "Our Father"
Shlomo Katz - 5766

Go Away!
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5755

Obstacles and Opportunities
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5763

> Why The Land of Israel?
- 5768

Living Miraculously
Rabbi Label Lam - 5766

The Wandering Jew
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Of Threads and Shoelaces
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Neither a Thread Nor a Shoelace
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5756

Dream the Impossible Dream
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5758

A Self-Starter
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5759



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information