Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Chukat
To dedicate this lesson

The Torah study is dedicatedin the memory of

Hana Bat Haim

Parashat Chukat

Desert Years


Rabbi Menachem Shrader

Parashat Chukat contains a silent juncture in the story of the Jewish people traveling through the desert. The entire book of Bamidbar up to this parasha refers to events that took place within the first two years since the exodus of Egypt. Suddenly, in the second aliyah of Chukat, we are in the first month of the final year of the Jewish people’s trek through the desert. By the end of the year, Moshe will have died, Yhoshua will have replaced him, and the Jewish people will be entering Canaan in a matter of weeks.

The 37 intermittent years seem to have passed without any event worthy of mention. Day after day passed, adding up to weeks, months, and years. All we get in between the aftermath of Parashat Korach and the death of Miriam are the mitzvot of parah adumah and tumat met, which, according to the Midrash, were actually given on the day of the dedication of the Mishkan.

But it is during these years that Moshe Rabbenu and the Jewish people became intimately connected with one another. Up to this point the Israelites had lived from crisis to crisis. Now they developed the routine of daily manna collection and the study of God’s Torah from Moshe and the elders. They were able to focus on the details of the mitzvot and contemplate their significance and proper fulfillment. While the desert was hardly a preparation for the independent life they would be leading in Israel, this experience imbued them with a new perspective of what life is all about, both personally and nationally.

These years are well represented by the parah adumah, which teaches that man is ultimately redeemed from the defilement of death, and kal vachomer from the setbacks of life. Daily efforts to do what is right, to fulfill God’s mitzvot, add up to a human existence worthy of man who was created in His image.

Yes, there is a great deal of confusion in life. Yet, all in all we slowly move in the direction of being worthy of entering God’s promised land as God’s chosen people.

This is a weekly column contributed by Aloh Naaleh an organization devoted to motivating Jews to make Aliya.
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