A Touch of Reality – Parah Adumah

“Because the satan and the nations of the world aggrieve the Jewish people and say “what is this mitzvah, and what is its reason?” the Torah wrote “this is the law” – it is a decree and you may not question it.”

This is how Rashi explains the Torah’s language when introducing the mitzvah of Parah Aduma, the most famous of mitzvot classified as chukim, or statutes, which have no logical explanation.

But I don’t understand something, Rashi. The satan aside – the nations of the world aren’t asking out of curiosity. They have an agenda. They are de-ligitimizing this mitzvah, and perhaps even the whole Torah, and suggesting that it, and therefore we, are silly and wrong. So because of this the Torah says that, indeed, it has no reason? How does this classification help anything? Not only are the goyim right, but we have no right to question it???

Shouldn’t the Torah, or at least Rashi, provide us with some good material to counter these claims? Shouldn’t we strengthen our hasbara and try to convince them that this mitzvah really is legitimate, and that it has much deep meaning? That despite the fact that we may not question it, it has been dwelled upon for generations and plenty of beautiful commentaries and ideas have been written?

Allow me to share my understanding. From the perspective of these goyim Rashi mentions, they are looking for a following conversation in which a perplexed Jew will stutter while he continues on bantering him about his farcical commandments.

Rashi, as I see it, provides the better response to these aggrievers. His reponse isn’t directly to them, rather directly to us, as if to say – “these goyim have a certain claim, but they will not define who you are and why you do what you do. You want to know what the story with this mitzvah is? Don’t look any farther than the Torah’s own working: chukah. It is a mitzvah you won’t ever understand. But it is a decree. It is the word of Gd as is the rest of this Torah, every little bit of it. And you are bound to it. Learn this, know this, internalize this, and you won’t have to worry about what those nations say.”

So much in so few words!

Those who take this approach will conduct their meeting with the nations a little differently, and uniequivocally say:

Yes, you’re right. We have plenty of commandments which don’t have any logical explanation – they’re called chukim. It doesn’t bother us, nor does it prevent us from exploring its inner meanings. The only reason we perform commandments is because Gd gave them, whether we understand them or not. That is what our Torah teaches. That is who we are.

Back then it was de-legitimization of the uncomprehensible red heifer, and today it’s de-legitimization of the logical and moral things we do right. But the principle remains – that we need to be true to who we are and what we do. These are the ultimate tools at our disposal when it comes to dealing with the nations of the world, and the maestro satan.

About the Author
David Engelhart learned in Yeshiva, served in the army, completed a degree in education, and is currently a father of 2 and a Technical Writer.
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