Torah Commentary

Torah Commentary

Growth Means Taking Responsibility

Chapter 20 of the biblical book of Numbers could be renamed "The Transition of Leadership." Approaching this chapter, the leadership triumvirate of Moses, Aaron, and Miriam guide the Israelite people based on God's direction. The chapter begins with Miriam's death. After Miriam dies, the people complain about the lack of water. In God's response, Moses and Aaron are told they will not enter the promised land. The first part of this prophecy is brought to fruition at the end of the chapter when Aaron dies.

In the End, There Was Love

Just as Parshat Chukat lists the Israelites’ battles and resting places in their trek toward the Promised Land, so too should we mark our nation’s jagged journey toward racial justice. It is therefore appropriate to mark not just the official end of slavery with the phrase et vahev b’sufa, but also the continuing struggle against the legacy of Jim Crow – systemic racism.

Grappling with Death and the Need to Mourn

“The whole community knew that Aaron had breathed his last” (Numbers 20:29). ... Parashat Chukat is in the middle of the Book of Numbers, and its narrative spans 38 of the 40 years in the wilderness. It is also full of death, and the human struggle to comprehend it.

Living in the Golden Mean

Parashat Chukat opens with the law of the parah adumah — the red heifer. It is a classic example of a commandment for which the Torah offers no explanation. How are we to understand and grapple with laws such as this that we do not understand? Perhaps we need to start not with the question, why, but with the question, why not.