Weekly Torah Commentary — Chukat June 14, 2013

The Hebrew word which is the title of this week’s Torah portion is translated as ‘statutes’ or ‘commandments’. Within the Torah, there are certain commandments whose meaning is readily understood as being beneficial not only to the individual but also to the support of a harmonious community life. For example, ‘You shall not steal’ or ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ It doesn’t take a great deal of study or thought to understand that abiding by these two commandments and others like them is reasonable and righteous and will contribute a safe and stable society. These are usually referred to as ‘mitzvot’.

There are, however, a few other commandments whose purpose and significance are not so readily understood and these commandments, or statutes, are called ‘chukim'(plural of chukat). One of the chukim is contained in this week’s parsha: the commandment regarding the ashes of the Red Heifer. Scholars have debated, researched and pondered this statute for generations and for our purposes, we will not delve into those discussions. Rather we will look at the deeper meaning of ‘chukim’ in general.

The commandments classified as ‘chukim’ are, as we said, those that are not readily understood, and therefore can tempt one to doubt their relevance or meaning. However, let us be reminded that they are not understood by us; Hashem knows exactly the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of each chukim. He simply has not chosen to reveal that to us. However, that grants us no license to dismiss them as irrelevant, G-d forbid!

That brings us to the fundamental issues of FAITH and TRUST.

Are these two words synonymous? Some would say they are. I beg to differ and here is a key as to why.

Faith is a noun; it describes a quality which you and I are able to ‘possess’ as part of our moral character. Faith is a belief, a conviction about what is true.

Trust on the other hand is a verb; it is an action, it is something that we DObecause of the faith we have! Trust is faith in action.

Now let us apply this to our present consideration.

If we BELIEVE (have faith) that the Torah was given by Hashem to Moshe on Mt. Sinai, that it is a Divine work, the revealed will of Hashem for the children of Israel, then when we choose to obey its directives, we are demonstrating our TRUST in G-d Himself.

This perspective is what motivated the children of Israel to say at Mt Sinai — before they knew what the Torah contained — “We will do and We will hear…” If I were to translate that in a modern idiom, I might say, “I commit to doing whatever Hashem has commanded, even though I don’t yet know what is contained in His revelation.” That, my friends, is TRUST.

Trust grows out of a deep inner conviction that Hashem DOES – without question – have our best interests at heart and His will towards us is for good and for life. When we don’t understand what is happening in our lives, or are inclined to question and to wonder, TRUST says, “Though I don’t understand, I trust that G-d is at work in this and somehow, its end is for my good. Therefore, I will hold on to Him.”

Hashem never promised that we would completely understand everything. That is beyond us.

What He did promise is that our faith in Him and our trust, as manifested by living His Torah, will yield not only blessings and provision, but also more and more understanding as we grow spiritually.

In Tune with Torah this week: Faith is a noun; Trust is a verb. In what ways can I improve how I demonstrate my Faith in Hashem through thoughts, words and actions that express TRUST in Him.

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