[b-hebrew] Common Sense

Shoshanna Walker rosewalk at concentric.net
Sun Oct 22 10:58:46 EDT 2006

No, chukim does not refer to the plural form of statutes, ordinances 
AND decrees.

The Torah distinguishes between three types of Mitzvot (Deut. 4:45) - 
1. Edot = testimonies, they are the mitzvot that testify to G-d's 
miracles, such as Shabbat, which testifies to Creation, or Matzah, 
which testifies to the Exodus.  2.  Mishpatim = ordinances, most of 
the mitzvot fall into this category.  They are laws that make sense, 
human intelligence even can know how necessary they are for the 
benefit of society; they represent laws that are valid even had they 
not been written in the Torah, such as the prohibitions against 
robbery, murder, and incest. Mishpatim are generally accepted laws 
which are found in the legal systems of most human cultures and 
civilizations.  3. Chukim = decrees, they are the mitzvot which 
cannot be understood by ordinary human intellect, such as not mixing 
milk and meat, not wearing wool and linen together, they are decrees 
of G-d, and it is not for anyone to question it, and they set Israel 
apart from the rest of the nations.

Parah Adumah is called by the Torah "Chukat HaTorah" and "Chukat 
Olam",  (Numbers 19: 1 - 10 and 19:21) it is the quintessential 
"chok" or "chukkah".  There is no lack of explanations of why Parah 
Adumah was red, or female, or was not to have ever carried a yoke, or 
the reason that the ritual involves the use of cedarwood, hyssop and 
a thread dyed with the blood of a worm, and  we "even" know that 
Parah Adumah is in response to the sin of the golden calf.  This is 
not the mystery of Parah Adumah.

Parah Adumah is the only way that a person who became defiled, 
rendered ritually impure, by contact with death, could become 
purified.  The process of preparing the parah, and its ashes, and 
what ingredients to mix them with, and how to divide them, and where 
to put them, was very detailed, and while sprinkling the ashes 
purified the person (and his clothing, and in some cases a tent and 
some of the vessels inside of it, in which there was a dead person) 
who had become defiled, everyone who was involved in the process of 
preparing the ashes, as well as performing the service, themselves 
became defiled, including their clothes.

The Red Heifer "purified the impure and made impure the pure." How 
does something that has the ability to purify one person cause 
impurity in another - this is not subject to human understanding.

And no, we did not "forget" anything - thanks to the Oral Torah, and 
the mesorah which was accurately transmitted through people, all the 
names of whom we know, through the generations.  We "even" know that 
Parah Adumah is in response to the sin of the golden calf.

This whole conversation is a result of someone saying that Judaism, 
or Torah, is simply a way of life that makes sense.  That is not at 
all true, that is just trivializing it, robbing it of its depth and 
complexities, and relationship with G-d.


>Shoshanna Walker wrote:
>> There are many of the 613 positive and negative commandments that
>> make NO SENSE (red heifer is the classic example).  They are called
>> "chukim" - ie; we are not supposed to understand the reasoning behind
>> them.
>HH: Doesn't "chukim" refer to the plural form of
>the Hebrew word for "statute, ordinance, decree"?
>I am familiar with this way of looking at such
>regulations of the law, but it may be that we have
>  lost some of the meaning that the institutions
>had for the ancient Israelites, such as the reason
>why it was a heifer and not a bull calf, and the
>demand for the red color. Parts of the ordinance
>are quite comprehensible, enough for us to find
>the law meaningful, even if we do not grasp all
>the details.
>Harold Holmyard
>b-hebrew mailing list
>b-hebrew at lists.ibiblio.org

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