Please note that service reminders aim to build a bridge between the last Saturday service two weeks before and the one being announced. They will therefore often focus on the previous parashah rather than on the one in the title.
Chukkat, commandments which cannot be rationally understood but are accepted to show man’s love and trust in God, comes immediately after the completion of the tabernacle and the challenge in Korach to Aaron’s priesthood. The opening lines are concerned with the curious purification from contamination by a corpse ritual, involving the ‘porah adumah,’ the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. This is a transitional parashah as the children of Israel move farther away from Sinai into the wilderness of Zin, and closer to the Promised Land. Moses is denied access to the land of Israel as a result of his anger; Miriam and Aaron die. It is up to the next generations to make the covenant manifest as they make their way through Transjordan, encamp on the steppes of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho.
This leads us into one of the most endearing passages in Torah with Parashah Balak, as Balaam and his talking donkey try to make their way towards the encamped Israelites to curse them rather than bless them. It is the source of ‘Mah Tovu’ which we sing at every service.
To find out more, come to this week’s service and listen to Adam who will explicate this wonderful passage.