Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Meir Kahane- Parshat Chukat
CHUKIM: TO WHAT END???
The Torah declares concerning the Red Heifer, "This is the chok of the Torah" (Numbers 19:2). Rashi comments: "Since Satan and the nations ridicule Israel, saying, 'What is this commandment and what is its rationale?' the Torah uses the word 'chok,' as if to say, 'It is a divine decree and you have no license to question it.'"
Truthfully, however, why DID G-d give us chukim which Satan and the nations would be able to ridicule for being irrational? The answer is that the chukim are certainly rational, but the Torah leaves us in the dark so that they operate solely as decrees, serving as prototypes for all the other commandments. They inform us that we must relate to all mitzvot as decrees - we must do them simply because G-d said so - even if the reason for some of them are relatively straightforward. The Sifra (as quoted by Rashi to Kedoshim 20:26) states:
"How do we know that a man should not say, 'I cannot abide pork, I cannot bear to wear a garment of Shaatnez,' but should rather say, 'I can eat the pork and wear the garment, but what can I do if my Father in Heaven has decreed otherwise?' It is said (Leviticus 20:26), 'And I have separated you from the nations that you should be Mine' - that you should be separated from them for My Name's sake and accept the yoke of heaven."
Doing the mitzvot out of submission to G-d brings merit to the Jewish people. As the Rabbis said: "The Torah states, 'Only be steadfast in not eating the blood, for the blood is the life' (Deuteronomy 12:23). If we are awarded for abstaining from blood, something which man finds disgusting, then how much more so will we bring merit to ourselves, our children, and all our descendants until the end of time if we abstain from thievery or illicit relations, things which man craves and desires" (Makkot 23b).
Even without G-d's commands, there are many mitzvot a person would fulfill anyway, either because they are loathsome (e.g., consuming blood) or because they are moral and beneficial (e.g., honoring one's parents). If, however, he fulfills them not because they are divine commands but because they seem logical, he does NOT achieve the holiness one attains as a result of breaking one's lust, arrogance, and ego. Only when a person does a mitzvah because he is COMMANDED can he ascend spiritually.
G-d therefore COMMANDED us not to consume blood, transforming an instinctive act into a holy means of quashing the ego. This is the intent of R. Chanania ben Akashia's comment that "G-d wished to bring Israel merit (l'zakot); He therefore provided them with much Torah and mitzvot" (ibid.). The word "l'zakot" connotes not only merit (zechut), but purity (zach). G-d wished to purify His people and refine them of the dross of egotism. He wished to purge their egos and place fetters on the bestial will and pride of man. He therefore gave us the mitzvot. When man performs all his deeds exclusively in accordance with the command of G-d, he becomes purified and ascends spiritually, which is the purpose of life.
The Rabbis said: "Does G-d care whether a person chooses a kosher animal or a non-kosher one; whether he slaughters it properly before consuming it or not? Does it help G-d? Does it harm Him? [No, rather the] mtizvot were given to refine Israel and mankind" (Tanchuma, Shemini 8).
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