סדר חקת

זאת חקת התורה

This is the statute of the law

Numbers 19:2

Rashi comments:

Because Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel, saying, “What is this command and what reason is there for it?” the Scripture therefore refers to it as “חקה” (statute), as if to say: “it is an enactment from Me, you have no right to think critically about it (להרהר אחריה).

Now one may ask, why do they taunt us only about the commandment of the red heifer? Are there no statutes besides this one that defy understanding? It is also difficult to understand why Rashi says you have no right to think critically about it (להרהר אחריה). What transgression does one commit by thinking critically about it?

Our master explains that an explanation can be inferred from the fact that the red heifer was instituted, as we know, to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf. (See what we have written concerning this in סדר קרח.) When Korah saw the chapter concerning the red heifer, he thought that the commandment of the red heifer would completely atone for the sin of the Golden Calf achieving the ultimate redemption (קץ הימין) about which it is written (Isaiah 25:8) “בלע המות לנצח” (He will swallow up death forever), when the Eternal will save Israel forever, bringing eternal joy upon them.

This interpretation implies that, if one could only find “the Kabbalistic words of delight” (דברי חפץ) by gaining a full understanding of the commandment of the red heifer, one would comprehend “the final wonders” (קץ הפלאות), because the red heifer and the final redemption are mutually interdependent. However, the final wonders are a secret hidden from the sight of every living creature, and the Talmudic Sages even said “woe unto those who attempt to calculate the end of days.” The Eternal therefore closed off the commandment of the red heifer, allowing no one to think critically about it with the intention of understanding its essence.

That is why Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel by saying “what is the reason for this commandment?” By this they mean to say “when will saviors come up on Zion?” In this way they testify falsely about Israel ( יפיחו על ישראל כזבים) — that their hope from the Eternal has been disappointed and “there is no salvation for him in God” (ואין לו ישועתה באלקים סלה), thereby perpetrating verbal oppression upon us. Nevertheless, we wait for him every day, and “בעתה אחישנה” (He will hasten the redemption in its time ). (שביבי אש)

יאסף אהרן אל עמיו כי לא יבא אל הארץ אשר נתתי לבני ישראל וכו’ קח את-אהרן

Aaron shall be gathered unto his people; for he shall not enter into the land . . . Take Aaron and Elazar . . . and strip Aaron of his vestments and place them on Elazar

Numbers 20:24-25

In the Midrash it is written: From here we know that the Holy One Blessed Be He informs the righteous of their death in order that they may bequeath their crowns to their children.

Our master explained this by referring to the Midrash concerning the verse (Ecclesiastes 8:8): “ואין שלטון ביום המות” (there is no authority on the day of death), interprets the Scripture to mean that on the day of death one is brought down from his position of honor. Our master brought proofs that these two Midrashim are related, one of them being that Moses used to have two trumpets sounded when the whole congregation were assembled before him. But the Scripture writes (Deuteronomy 31:1) that, at the end of his life on the day of his death “וילך, משה; וידבר את-הדברים האלה, אל-כל-ישראל” Moses went himself and spoke these words to all Israel, for no longer having power on the day of his death, he had to go to them rather than they come to him.

But one may ask: Do the righteous not go from strength to strength, higher and higher, reaching, at the end of their days, their pinnacle and fulfillment? For the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 58:1) on the verse (Psalms 37:18): “יודע ה’ ימי תמימים” (the Lord knows the days of the blameless) teaches that just as the righteous are “תמימים” (whole), so their years are whole (תמימים)

If so, why is it that the honor of the righteous is diminished in the eyes of the people? However, the Master of all that happens causes their honor to be diminished so that their children or students who succeed them may able to occupy their position even though they are still young and have not yet reached the level of their parents and teachers. So if the people were to recognize the great distance between the successor and his father or his teacher, they would not submit to the authority of the successor and would scorn him and say: “how can this one save us,  what is he compared to his father or his teacher?” The Eternal therefore withdraws the honor and the glory from the father before his death, so that his son can successfully fill his new position.

This is why the Scripture writes “ יאסף אהרן אל עמיו” (may Aaron be gathered unto his people), to indicate that his honor and glory will be gathered before the people. Why before the people? “כי לא יבא אל הארץ אשר נתתי לבני ישראל” (because he shall not come into the land which I have given to the children of Israel(. Instead, “קח אהרן ואת אלעזר בנו וכו’ ונפשט את אהרן ואת בגדיו והלבשתם את אלעזר בנו” )take Aaron and his son Elazar . . . strip him of his garments and put them upon Elazar his son), because Elazar his son will become the priest in his place. Thus, the honor of Aaron must be taken from him before his death, so that the people will not understand how much the power of the father exceeds that of the son.

The Midrash therefore properly deduces that from here we learn that the Holy One Blessed Be He informs the righteous of their death, because, although they feel that they are ascending ever higher, the righteous perceive that their end is approaching. But they see that in the eyes of the people their honor is diminished. The diminution of their honor is required for their successors to be able to inherit their crowns.  ודו”ק כי הוא מתוק מדבש.

(שביבי אש)

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