Chukat. The Book of Numbers chs 19, 20, 21 (Numbers6) 13 June, 2013, Tammuz 5, 5773
Duration: 16 minutes
The opening theme of our portion (Chukat) deals with the ashes of the red cow that are needed for ritual purification which is necessary (or at the least greatly preferable) for the rebuilding of the Temple and re-institution of the Temple Service and everything about it.
Anyone reading the Bible correctly will most likely instinctively feel that the Almighty wants Israel to return to what it once was or to what it once should have been. The Restoration will come about through Divine Intervention BUT it may be speeded up in our time by human initiative. We can help bring forward the salvation of ourselves and of all mankind as required by the Bible.
The Restoration of Israel should be conceived as including NOT ONLY the return of the Jews to their land and the rebuilding of the Temple but also the realization by descendants of the Ten Tribes as to who they are and their eventual Reconciliation with Judah.
The yearning for the rebuilding of the Temple and attempts at Restoration should incorporate the Brit-Am Lost Ten Tribes Movement and its message.
[Numbers 19:2] Â This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.Â
The ashes of a red cow (i.e. heifer) are needed for the purification from the impurity caused by contact with the dead which is the most severe degree of impurity. In order to offer up sacrifices and conduct certain activities connected with rebuilding the Temple we should have these ashes. From the technical point of view, even without the ashes much could be done even while we remain in a state of impurity but this would require a greater authority to decide upon and evoke much controversy.Â Â
The ashes must be obtained from a cow whose hairs are entirely red or reddish brown. Even one white, black, or other colored hair could disqualify the beast. In the past there were nine such cows all of them from the same hereditary lineage.Â The tenth such red cow will be associated with the Messianic era.
Â Surprisingly enough in recent times several bovine candidates have made their appearance.
Any Priest (Cohen) could prepare it but traditionally the task was given to the Deputy High Priest. It was prepared on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple Mount.
Wikipedia tells us:
##The Temple Institute, a controversial organization dedicated to preparing the reconstruction of a Third Temple in Jerusalem, has been attempting to identify Red Heifer candidates consistent with the requirements of Numbers 19:1-22 and Mishnah Tractate Parah. In recent years, the Institute identified two candidates, one in 1997 and another in 2002. The Temple Institute had initially declared both kosher, but later found each to be unsuitable.
##Some fundamentalist Christians believe that the Second Coming ...cannot occur until the Third Temple is constructed in Jerusalem, which requires the appearance of red heifer born in Israel. Clyde Lott, a cattle breeder in O'Neill, Nebraska, United States, is attempting to systematically breed red heifers and export them to Israel to establish a breeding line of red heifers in Israel in the hope that this will bring about the construction of the Third Temple...
In point of fact in recent years a number of red heifers have appeared that were "kosher" for a while but developed some imperfection later. With genetic engineering, effort, money, and ingenuity the impression is that a red heifer could be "produced" if we really wanted it. Â Â
Â [Numbers 19:10]Â And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of Israel and to the stranger who dwells among them.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
## TO THE STRANGER ## The same rights and obligations were to apply to the native-born Israelite and the Stranger (i.e. foreigner) who attached themselves to Israel. This principle is emphasized in Scripture over and over again.
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Numbers 19:17 And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them in a vessel. 18 A clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, sprinkle it on the tent, on all the vessels, on the persons who were there, or on the one who touched a bone, the slain, the dead, or a grave. 19 The clean person shall sprinkle the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, wash his clothes, and bathe in water; and at evening he shall be clean.
The ingredients needed to purify an unclean person consisted of a cedar branch,Â hyssop branches, water and the ashes of the red cow.
Hyssop is a kind of aromatic weed with purple flowers.
The water that the hyssop was dipped in was the water that had been mixed with the ashes of the red heifer.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
[Numbers 20:1] Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.
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Miriam died at Kadesh in the Wilderness and was buried there. The name Miriam in English is pronounced as Marion,Â Marian, or Mary. Miriam was the sister of Moses and Aaron. According to tradition Miriam had several other names one of which was Ephrath who is recorded (1-Chronicles 2:18) as the wife of Caleb ben Yefuneh and the mother of Hur.
7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.Â
Moses was commanded to speak to the rock and it would give forth water.
9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him.
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock? 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.
Moses did not speak to the rock. He struck it and water came forth.
12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, Â Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.
Moses was to be punished for striking the rock and not speaking to it.
What difference did it make?
It could be that by striking the rock the miracle could have been imputed to natural causes. In the Sinai Desert, Saudia, and the Negev, etc, there exist different layers of underground rocks and also subterranean reservoirs of water, in some cases of great extent. It happens that water pressures can build up in different layers of rock. Some layers are more pervious than others, i.e. certain strands contain a lot of water while the layers above and beneath them do not. According to reports the different pressures can cause rocks to suddenly break apart and water come rushing out.
Why then did Moses not do as he was commanded?Â Â
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13 This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the Lord, and He was hallowed among them.
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Â 14 Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. Thus says your brother Israel: Â You know all the hardship that has befallen us, 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers.
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## and the Egyptians afflicted us ## Hebrew "veyarayu lonu" i.e. did evil unto us.
This is what Moses said to the Edomites.
Later when Moses tells the Israelites how they shall relate what happened to them (in bringing their first fruits) they were to say,
AND THE EGYPTIANS EVIL ENTREATED US [Deuteronomy 26:6] in Hebrew "yarayu autonu"
i.e. made us out to be evil and after that AFFLICTED US [ibid]. The Commenary "Baruch She-Omar" (Haggadah shel Pesach) by Rabbi Baruch HaLevi Epstein (1860-1941 Lithuania) explains the difference between the two cases. Those who hate the Jewish people usually seek some kind of ideological justification for their hatred. They tell lies or gross exaggerations about the Jews. The Egyptians did the same. They described the Israelites as evil people. This is what it means where it says The Egyptians made us out as [i.e. to be] evil. The Israelites were commanded to remember not only how the Egyptians had afflicted us but also how they had sad bad things about us [Deuteronomy 26:6]. This remembrance however applied when the Israelites were amongst themselves in the temple bringing their first fruits, as one Hebrew to another.
On the other hand when as in our cases Moses is telling the Edomites what the Egyptians had done to us he left out the part where they had told lies about us. The reason for this was that when one is dealing with a potentially antagonistic party such as the Edomites were it is best not to tell them the wrong things others said about you one should be careful. Those who do not like you or are somewhat hostile to you will tend to give credence to bad things sad about you even when they are palpably false.
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Numbers 20:18 Then Edom said to him, You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.
The Edomites were descended from Esau who was the twin brother ofÂ Jacob who had been renamed Israel and from whom descend the 12 tribes of Israel. The Edomites were located to the east of the Land of Canaan and it was this area the Israelites wished to traverse but Edom would not let them. There were also other areas in the north where Edomites had settled. There were twelve different Edomite nations (parallel to the Twelve Tribes of Israel) and the kingdom of Edom referred to here represented only one of them.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
[Numbers 20:24] Â Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah.
Aaron was to die in this region which was east of the Jordan.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Numbers 21:8 Then the Lord said to Moses, Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live. 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
They looked upon the bronze statue of the serpent.
Later the Greeks (who took many of their legends and concepts from the Phoenician Canaanites and Hebrews) borrowed this imagery, adapted it to their own legends and made it a symbol of healing.
See this extract from an Ohr Sameach article:
The snake and staff symbol traditionally associated with the healing arts is often attributed to Greek mythology either as the single-snake emblem of Asklepios, or as the double-snake emblem representing the caduceus (magic wand) of Hermes (Mercury).Â
The Asklepion emblem of a single snake coiled around a staff has been associated with curing since the 5th century BCE, when Asklepios became accepted by the Greeks as the god of healing. Whether he was also an historical figure as healer in earlier ages is not certain.
The caduceus of Hermes, portrayed by two snakes intertwined around a staff topped by wings, is related to the mythological messenger of the gods who guided souls to the underworld, and was seen as protector of travelers, shepherds, merchants and thieves. During the Middle Ages the caduceus became a symbol of pharmacy and alchemy, and eventually, although "mythologically" incorrect, came to be associated with medicine.
Â A: The rod of Asclepius (also known as the rod of Asklepios, rod of Aesculapius or asklepian)...
is an ancient Greek symbol associated with astrology and with healing the sick through medicine. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. Asclepius, the son of Apollo, was practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology.
32 Then Moses sent to spy out Jazer; and they took its villages and drove out the Amorites who were there.
33 And they turned and went up by the way to Bashan. So Og king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 34 Then the Lord said to Moses, Do not fear him, for I have delivered him into your hand, with all his people and his land; and you shall do to him as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt at Heshbon. 35 So they defeated him, his sons, and all his people, until there was no survivor left him; and they took possession of his land.
First they fought against Sihon King of the Amorites east of the Jordan then they fought against Og King of Bashan further north. Og was also an Amorite.
The Prophet Amos described the Amorites as very tall people.
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YET DESTROYED I THE AMORITE BEFORE THEM, WHOSE HEIGHT WAS LIKE THE HEIGHT OF THE CEDARS, AND HE WAS STRONG AS THE OAKS; YET I DESTROYED HIS FRUIT FROM ABOVE, AND HIS ROOTS FROM BENEATHÂ [Amos 2:9].Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
ALSO I BROUGHT YOU UP FROM THE LAND OF EGYPT, AND LED YOU FORTY YEARS THROUGH THEÂ WILDERNESS, TO POSSESS THE LAND OF THE AMORITE [Amos 2:11].
Numbers 21:36 or Numbers 22:1 (according to a different system).
Then the children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho.
The Lands of Sihon and Og that the Israelites had conquered were east of the Jordan. They included much of the Present Lands of Jordan and Syria. These countries should really belong to Israel. The Arabs who dwell there at the moment are illegal squatters.
Sihon and Og the Amorite monarchs had themselves taken the lands they occupied from Moab and Ammon. 300 years later the Moabites and Ammonites were to demand these lands back from Israel and to attempt to take them by force. The Israelite led by Jephtah were to refuse and to defeat Ammon and Moab in war.
The Haftorah (Portion from the Prophets) is most of chapter 11 from the Book of Judges. This deals with Jephtah.
See our article and YouTube Clip concerningÂ Jephtah:
Jephthah the Judge. Judges chapter 11