Faith is the Remedy
By: Aaron B. Buechler (New Jersey Regional board)
(On the right in the picture below)
Parshat Chukat is fascinating, besides being my bar mitzvah parsha. Parshat Chukat is action-packed with many different stories and themes that seemingly have no correlation. There appears to be no ostensibleassociation between the parah adumah (the red heifer), Miriam’s death, the water crisis in the desert, Moshe and Aharon’s punishment that they will not enter into the land of Israel because Moshe struck the rock and did not speak it as G-d had commanded, Aharon’s death, the travels and battles of the Jewish people, the attacks of the fiery snake-like seraphs, the healing effect of the bronze snake, and the song of the Jewish people. Yet after reading through Parshat Chukat numerous times I felt there was a relationship, that the connection resting within was the theme of remedying a wrong.
The concept of righting the wrongs of yesterday, improving our lives, and correcting the erroneous is one that runs deep throughout the chronicles of Chukat. The parah adumah, while it may have no logical understanding, is given to the Jewish people as a remedy to rid ourselves of tameh meit (ritual impurity due to contact with a corpse). After Miriam passed away in the wilderness, Bnai Yisrael complained they had no water so Moshe struck the rock after
HaShem commanded him to converse with it. Nonetheless, water flowed forth to quench the thirst of the Jewish nation. Consequentially, Moshe and his brother Aharon were prominently punished for their failure to obey HaShem’s command even though they fixed the grave situation at hand regarding the lack of drinking water. Along their path to Israel the Jewish people were not granted permission to traverse the highways of Edom, so they forced to take the long way home. Thus, the Jewish nation was spared from waging war and suffering the inevitable death and injury that result from battle. Due to the Jews incessant nagging regarding food and drink, HaShem sent fiery snake-like seraphs to bite the complainers. This led the Jews to protest once more. As a result, HaShem commanded Moshe to construct a bronze snake and hoist it high upon a pole. All those to raise their eyes towards the bronze snake and heaven were instantaneously and miraculously healed.
Many ask how the bronze serpent statue saved the ill. The answer is found in the fact that the bronze serpent was erected upon a pole. Thus, when the stricken gazed upon the serpent they were staring skyward with hope and prayer for a speedy recovery. They believed while looking upwards that they would be healed and they trusted in HaShem to help them get better. They looked towards the heavens in search of a remedy; it was this search and their request to Moshe that led them to find their answers. Parshat Chukat is about having faith and fixing the wrong, making difficult scenarios better and believing that things will turn out for the best. Whether it was when the Jews waged war against a seemingly stronger opponent, sprinkled those who were in contact with a corpse with the ashes of theparah adumah, were thirsty due to lack of water, or those ill from the snake bites, parshat Chukat teaches us to have faith, to believe in HaShem and to know that as a result, things will turn out better. It is faith in HaShem, we as individuals, and as a unified nation that brings us closer together and helps raise us to higher levels.