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Chukat: What the world’s cleverest person couldn’t understand

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What was the one thing that the cleverest person on earth couldn’t understand?

According to our tradition, King Solomon, who was cleverer than anyone else, could not work out the logic behind the laws of the parah adumah, the red heifer, as presented to us in Parshat Chukat.

Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik beautifully describes the connection between Parshat Korach of the previous week followed by Parshat Chukat. According to our sages Korach challenged Moshe and Aharon claiming that the laws that they were presenting to the people in the name of Hashem just didn’t make any sense! For example, Korach said, “If you have a four cornered garment which is blue, why are we required to have a ‘ptil techeilet’, one single blue cord on the tzitzit to enable us to wear the garment? Or similarly, if you have a house that is full of holy books, why is it necessary to have a mezuzah at the entrance to that home?”

The saga of the Korach rebellion is followed immediately by the laws of the red heifer because the red heifer is a quintessential example of a law which defies logic. The Kohen would administer the ashes of the heifer to somebody who was impure, enabling that person now to be pure. However, because he was coming into contact with the ashes, the Kohen himself became impure.

How is it possible that these ashes could transform purity into impurity and impurity into purity all at the same time? I don’t understand it and I’m sure you also don’t, but that is the whole point. When we have a ‘chok’ – a law which comes from Hashem, Hashem knows best, and we don’t always have to know the answer.

The vast majority of the mitzvot of the Torah are rational and reasonable and make so much sense to us. But even in an instance where the cleverest person on earth cannot work out why a law is given, nonetheless, we should embrace it, and appreciate it, because it comes from Hashem who knows best. By performing these laws we will enhance our lives and will have added meaning and joy on every single day of our existence.

Shabbat shalom.