Torah Fax

Friday, July 11, 2003 - 11 Tammuz, 5763

Friendly Takeover

The saying that "a name says it all," is more than a cliché.  According to the Talmud, a name captures the very character of that which bears the name. According to our mystical tradition, this applies specifically to a Hebrew name since Hebrew is known as the Holy Tongue, and the Hebrew letters represent the spiritual life-force that G‑d uses to create the world. Thus the letters of a particular Hebrew name are actually the conduit through which G‑d's spiritual energy animates an individual person or thing.
With this introduction, let us examine the name of one of this week's parshas: Chukat. (We also read a second parsha, Balak, but we'll leave that discussion for another occasion.) It is interesting to note that the name Chukat in Hebrew is somewhat similar to the name of last week's parsha: Korach. Both words contain the two Hebrew letters chet and kuf. The third letter is where they part company. Korach has the letter reish while Chukat contains the letter tav. Hence the critical distinction between these two words, in terms of the composition of letters, is that Korach has a reish while Chukat has a tav.

What is the deeper significance of this apparently trivial piece of information? The two letters that Korach and Chukat share are: chet and kuf These two letters form the word Chok, which translates and is defined as a commandment that transcends our reason. Indeed, this parsha highlights the enigmatic commandment to use a red cow as a form of purification. This ritual, with all of its paradoxes and anomalies, is the symbol of what it means to rise above conventional logic in one's relationship with G‑d. By following these trans-rational Mitzvot, we rise to a level of G‑dly awareness that transcends the normative G‑dly energies. In short, Chukat symbolizes the art of transcendence. 

But how does the idea of transcendence connect to the preceding parsha of Korach? Korach, the rebel who tried to wrest power from Moses and Aaron, was no ordinary person. As discussed in last week's Torah Fax, Korach was an extremely spiritual and exalted individual. His problem was that his lofty ideas and heightened spiritual position were disconnected from the real world. Korach, whose name means separation, attempted to enshrine the separation that G‑d created between the upper spheres and the lower spheres.  When G‑d created the world, He also created - on day two of creation-a separation, the Rakiah, between the "upper" and the "lower." G‑d's intention, however, was that this separation be eliminated and the synthesis between the spiritual and physical, transcendent and lowly physical reality, be achieved. Sinai, was the experience that brought about this "corporate merger."

But Korach resisted this. His name, therefore, while containing the lofty letters that form the word Chok, a transcendent force, also contains the letter reish, which means poverty. One who has the highest ideals and aspirations, but refuses to or is incapable of relating those ideals to the day-to-day exigencies of life, is truly impoverished. It is comparable to one who has millions in the bank, but cannot withdraw any of it to spend on the necessitates of life.

On the heels of the parsha dedicated to Korach, the rich man who couldn't make any withdrawals from his spiritual bank, the Torah introduces the parsha of Chukat. Chukat, as noted has the letter tav instead of the letter reish. The letter tav is the very last letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This connotes the idea that all of the lofty ideals represented by the word Chok-a transcendent G‑dly directive-finds expression in every aspect of life, down to the lowest and final letter-the realm of tav. Moreover, according to the Talmud (Shabbat 55a) the letter tav is the initial of, and therefore represents the idea of, Techiyat Hameitim, the resurrection of the dead. According to Jewish belief (mentioned in the Bible and Talmud and Maimonides), in the Messianic Era, the dead will be revived and brought back to life. When that occurs, we are told, we will all live forever.

Hence the last letter tav, the last letter of the alphabet, signifies not only the final period of history, but also the idea of eternal life.  Translated into down-to-earth terms, this means as follows:  There are some people who have great ideas and who live in the world of theory. Their ideas, however, lack true life and endurance, since they exist in the realm of thought and speech and do not enter into the realm of action. This was Korach, the ultimate personification of the term dichotomy.

To prevent one from becoming another Mr. Dichotomy, we must read and invoke the theme of the word Chukat-taking the lofty chok and connecting it to the letter tav. This means, we must seek to translate the highest and most spiritual ideals into action. This then provides us with a taste of the World-to-Come, where eternal life will be the norm. By introducing an element of consistency and durability in our own lives, we reveal that part of our soul that connects to our body that cannot be separated, i.e., eternal life.  

Moshiach Matters

It is important to complain to Hashem about the length of the Exile and cry out “Ad Mosai? Till When (do we have to be in this bitter Exile)?” There are those that might question the appropriateness of speaking to G‑d with such force. In truth, there are many verses in the Bible which speak exactly in this tone of voice, as in: (Zecharya 1:12) “Ad Mosai, Till when will you refrain from having mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah...?”  (The Rebbe, Hisva’aduyos, 1984, vol. 2, pg 989))

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