Thursday, June 28, 2012

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Chukas

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Rabbi Frand began his vort by noting that the Parah Adumah is a classic paradox. It causes those who prepare it to become tamei, but the only way that one can become pure from tumah is if he receives the ashes of the Parah Adumah. This chok was a paradox which even King Solomon could not understand.

Rabbi Frand quoted the gemara which states that the mitzva of Parah Aduma was given at Mara, prior to the grant of the Torah to the Jews. The mitzva of Parah Aduma was not the only mitzva commanded at Mara, as the Jews also received the mitzva of Shabbos, and the mitzva to respect one's parents.

Rabbi Frand then quoted R' Yaakov (I assume Kaminetsky) who asked why the mitzva of Parah Aduma was given prior to Matan Torah? Since the miztva requires a kohain gadol and a mishkan and the Jews had neither at the time, it seems premature to be given this mitzva at that time.

Rabbi Frand then asked a second question - why is Parah Aduma described as the quintessential Chok. There are other mitzvos which appear to be more illogical, such as shatnez or the issur in eating non kosher animals. Yet, this is the mitzva which the Torah calls the number one Chok.

Rabbi Frand quoted a sefer called Be'er Yosef which theorizes that the reason that Parah Aduma is the classic Chok and needs to be learned prior to Matan Torah is that Parah Aduma symbolizes that bad things can happen to good people and bad people can have good things in their lives. Parah Aduma is the mitzva that teaches that there are things in life which happen that we do not understand. There are funerals six days a week and people needed to relate to it. When the Beis Hamikdash was operational there were people going on a daily basis to be mitaheir from their tumah that they incurred while taking care of a dead body. Thus the Parah Aduma was a constant reminded of death.

R' Frand quoted R' Yaakov, who explains that this is the reason why the mitzva of Parah Aduma was given before the Torah was given to the Jews. The Jews needed to learn that there are laws in the Torah which are not meant to be understood, but they still need to be observed.

R' Frand then stated that the thought clarifies a Magen Avraham (580) which teaches that there was a minhag of Jews to fast on the Friday before Chukas. Why? Because twenty wagon loads of Gemara were burned in France on that Friday. However, this fast was unlike any other fast since it was not tied to a date in Tamuz. Instead, it was tied to the Friday before Chukas because it was a gezeirah that they could not understand. This is the Parsha that teaches that things happen which we just cannot understand and therefore the fast was tied to the Friday of this week.

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