From Reform Judaism https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/chukat
CHUKAT (חֻקַּת – Hebrew for “The Ritual Law” or “Decree”) – Numbers 19:1−22:1
The Eternal One spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “This is the ritual law that the Eternal has commanded: Instruct the Israelite people to bring you a red cow without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which no yoke has been laid.” – Numbers 19:1-2
- The laws of the red heifer to purify a person who has had contact with a corpse are given. (19:1-22)
- The people arrive at the wilderness of Zin. Miriam dies and is buried there. (20:1)
- The people complain that they have no water. Moses strikes the rock to get water for them. God tells Moses and Aaron they will not enter the Land of Israel. (20:2-13)
- The king of Edom refuses to let the Children of Israel pass through his land. After Aaron’s priestly garments are given to his son Eleazer, Aaron dies. (20:14-29)
- After they are punished for complaining about the lack of bread and water, the Israelites repent and are victorious in battle against the Amorites and the people of Bashan, whose lands they capture. (21:4-22:1)
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chukat
Chukat (חֻקַּת — Hebrew for “decree”) – Num. 19:1-22:1
The parashah sets out the laws of corpse contamination (tumat hamet) and purification with the water of lustration prepared with the Red Cow (פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה, parah adumah, also called the “Red Heifer”). It also reports the deaths of Miriam and Aaron, the failure of Moses at the Waters of Meribah, and the conquest of Arad, the Amorites, and Bashan.
[The triennial reading is Numbers 20:1-21:10. The Israelites arrive at Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin where Miriam dies and is buried. The people complain about the lack of water. Moses and Aaron appeal to God who tells them to take “the rod and order the rock to yield its water.” Moses takes the rod, assembles the people in front of the rock and says, “Listen, you rebels, shall we get water for you out of this rock?”]
In Modern Interpretation
From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chukat
Dean Ora Horn Prouser of the Academy for Jewish Religion noted that in Numbers 20:10, before hitting the rock, Moses cried “Listen, you rebels!” using a word for “rebels,” מֹּרִים, morim, that appears nowhere else in the Bible in this form, but which in its unvocalized form is identical with the name Miriam, מִרְיָם. Horn Prouser suggested that this verbal coincidence may intimate that Moses’ behavior had as much to do with the loss of Miriam reported in Numbers 20:1 as with his frustration with the Israelite people. Horn Prouser suggested that when faced with the task of producing water, Moses recalled his older sister, his co-leader, and the clever caretaker who guarded him at the Nile.
REFLECTION – Father’s Day/Avinu Malkeinu/Red Heifer
From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Father%27s_Day
Father’s Day is a celebration honoring fathers and celebrating fatherhood, paternal bonds, and the influence of fathers in society. It was first proposed by Sonora Dodd of Spokane, Washington in 1909. It is currently celebrated in the United States annually on the third Sunday in June. Father’s Day was inaugurated in the United States in the early 20th century to complement Mother’s Day in celebrating fathers, fathering, and fatherhood.
From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avinu_Malkeinu
Avinu Malkeinu (Hebrew: אָבִינוּ מַלְכֵּנוּ; “Our Father, Our King”) is a Jewish prayer recited during Jewish services during the Ten Days of Repentance, from Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur inclusive. The Talmud records Rabbi Akiva (died 135 CE) reciting two verses each beginning “Our Father, Our King” in a prayer to end a drought (apparently successfully) [– might it work nowadays?]
From Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_heifer
The red heifer (Hebrew: פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה; para adumma), a female bovine which has never been pregnant or milked or yoked, also known as the red cow, was a cow brought to the priests as a sacrifice according to the Torah, and its ashes were used for the ritual purification of Tum’at HaMet (“the impurity of the dead”), that is, an Israelite who had come into contact with a corpse…. The existence of a red heifer that conforms with all of the rigid requirements imposed by halakha is a biological anomaly.
In my Sefardic tradition, the father is both the head and ruler of the family echoing Avinu Malkeinu – the women are the keepers and teachers of the traditions, practices and language of the home and the community at large. Not being a biological father, what I might say or write about fatherhood would be secondhand at best and most likely trite.
Still, most of us have read/heard that our relationship with our fathers colors our view of God. That is, from loving to harsh, from absent to present, etc. Modern society is filled with images of God as father, and the earthly father as the head of the household, and these images influence how we see ourselves and act.
The powerful image of God as father and ruler permeates Judaism. Some of us struggle with it and against it, trying to make sense of it and make it work somehow. It has been our paradigm for thousands of years. Perhaps as a counterbalance, we also have the powerful images of the Shechinah, God’s nurturing and feminine aspects, as well as the Sabbath as a Queen: Shabbat Hamalkah – secondary as in general women operate in Sefardic culture nonetheless very influential and important, in both cases.
Are we in need of a new paradigm? Are these images still strong enough to help us reach our goal of repairing the world, Tikkun Olam? What image or concept is powerful enough to take us to the next level in our emotional, intellectual and spiritual evolution?
What can help us recognize the God before us, the God within us and the God all around us? What can convince us that all of creation is sacred and alive, and intimately interconnected deserving of our care? In short, that God is All-That-Is. It seems that this was part of the issue Baruch Spinoza was struggling with and which led to accusations of pantheism and heresy, and ultimately resulted in his cherem, excommunication and expulsion from the Jewish community of Amsterdam.
For a tradition that sees God as totally other, such ideas are anathema. For a tradition that sees God as totally separate from our daily lives, the idea of a God that acts in us, through us and with us, is heresy. For a tradition built on the shoulders of the prophets and an obligation to repair the world, the idea of a totally involved God is suspect.
This brings up a powerful symbol of God restoring us in this week’s Parsha: the Red Heifer. Reportedly, some in Judaism are actively working to breed a red cow that meets all the requirements. In Rabbinic Judaism the need for Temple Rituals including the red cow are replaced by the synagogue rituals and prayer.
Likely the rabbis thought that this was temporary until God would intervene and restore us to our promised land and rebuild the Temple. What seems more likely is that the rabbis are an evolution of our understanding of God, which leads to our personal and communal responsibility to repair the world – and in so doing, God whether Father-King, Shechinah or Symbol most likely acts in us, with us and through us.
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence especially against all minority communities including us, conflicts, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, pandemics, natural disasters, war and all violence.
This coming week, the 9th through the 15th of Tamuz, we lovingly remember:
TKH Memorial List
TKH Shofar Donor
Father of TKH Lay Leader Doug Annino
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, June 18, 2021.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Triennial Reading Num. 20:1-21:10
Time: June 18, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: June 18, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!
PS – Happy Father’s Day!