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Dear Mogen David Family,

The placement of the laws of the Parah Adumah at the beginning of Parashat Chukat is somewhat strange. We know, based on the Midrash, that these laws were given to Bnei Yisrael even before Mattan Torah at Massa U'Meriva in Parashat Beshalach. There, Bnei Yisrael complained for lack of water, and the Torah tells us "sham sam lo chok u'mishpat."The mishpat given was the Mitzvah of Shabbat (and perhaps also Kibbud Av vÉm), and the chok was the Mitzvah of the Parah Adumah. 

If this important Mitzvah, which details the procedure of purification after corpse defilement (Tumaát HaMet), was conveyed previously, why is it specifically placed here in Parashat Chukat?

Perhaps we can propose that the significance of its placement refers back to the Korach rebellion. The Midrash famously tells us that Korach captured the hearts of the people through logical manipulation of the Halacha. Korach, through his intelligence and learning, challenged the basic premise of many of our laws. Does a garment which is entirely blue require a techelet string? Does a house full of Sifrei Torah require a Mezzuza? Why were only a select group of Klal Yisrael [the Kohanim from Shevet Levi] chosen as the Ovdei HaMishkan? From a purely logical and rational perspective Korach's argument were sound. 

Of course, they discounted the Ratzon Hashem, the will of G-d, and they ignored the element of servitude essential to a complete understanding of Torah and Mitzvot. Most of the Torah's ethics and rules conform to our natural feelings, but there are also Chukim, those Mitzvot and Halachot which we do not fully understand, and we must abide by them completely and unequivocally. 

Parashat Chukat follows Parashat Korach to remind us that a true Eved Hashem must not be swayed by the fashion of the day. Irrespective of the political, social, or cultural leanings of one's day, we must always remain loyal and honest to the Torah and the Ratzon Hashem. 

Zot Chukat HaTorah!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yehuda Moses Rav HaKehillah/Senior Rabbi

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