Ariel Ben Avraham

Parshat Chukat: The purity of life as God’s gift

All the commandments, statutes and decrees stated in the Torah are related to the plan that encompasses God’s creation. These are given particularly to Israel because this plan is part of Israel’s mission in the world.

Though we can’t comprehend God’s essence or His plan, the Torah makes us aware that Israel is destined to fulfill His will. Hence, He commands us to do so.

“This is the decree of (chukat) the Torah which the Lord commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel (…)’.” (Numbers 19:2)

Our sages explain that life is intrinsically pure and everything related to it must be pure. In contrast to death that represents exactly the opposite. In this sense, our life becomes impure when we taint it with all that is against its integrity, dignity, honor, and goodness.

In other words, anything that is against the goodness of love’s ways and attributes. Love is the essence of life, as it is God’s love the essence and purpose of His creation.

Consequently, purification is the way to keep love always present in our lives. We must realize that the message here is to understand impurity as the result of inviting anything that represents the opposite of life. We are truly alive when we live in the ways of goodness, the pure ways the Creator commands us to live by.

True life is sustained by the waters of God’s love. Our mystic sages teach that Aaron, Miriam and Moses represent our highest awareness of the Creator, what we call the awareness of God’s ways and attributes. Aaron is our wisdom, Miriam our understanding, and Moses our knowledge.

As long as these qualities of our intellect are permanently aware of the Creator in our lives and in all Creation, we are truly alive in the material world. If one of these qualities is missing, we feel disconnected from God’s love.

In this view, understanding is the water that gives sense to wisdom and knowledge.


“And Miriam died there [in the desert], and was buried there. The congregation had no water, so they assembled against Moses and Aaron.” (20:1-2)

The narrative continues with the conquest of the promised land, and the events are related to the main message of this portion, purification. We have said the “nations” that occupied this land represent negative traits and trends that Israel must avoid in order to remain sacred to the Creator.

“Please let us pass through your land; we will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink well water. We will walk along the king’s road, and we will turn neither to the right nor to the left until we have passed through your territory’.” (20:17)

We must realize that when we are dealing with negative thoughts, emotions, feelings and passions, we risk the goodness of love as the inherent quality of life. Hence, we have to turn away from negativity because in it we can’t get through anything good.

“Edom refused to allow Israel to cross through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.” (20:21)

In order to avoid the negative aspects of consciousness we must be determinant, and fully commit every dimension of our life to God’s ways and attributes. When we allow them to lead, we are able to transform negative traits into qualities that we dedicate to fulfill His will. God’s love does this transformation.

“Israel made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If You deliver this people into my hand, I shall consecrate their cities.’The Lord heard Israel’s voice and delivered the Canaanite. He destroyed them and [consecrated] their cities (…)” (21:2-3)

This transformation does not make sense as long as some aspects of consciousness are still attached to lower emotions and materialistic desires as some of ego’s negative perceptions that taint the purity of life as the gift of God’s love.

“The people spoke against God and against Moses, ‘Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in this desert, for there is no bread and no water, and we are disgusted with this rotten bread?’.” (21:5)

The illusion of separation in ego’s individualistic agenda, represented by the snake, again proves to be the main tainting trait that causes death before the eyes of love.

“The Lord sent against the people the venomous snakes, and they bit the people, and many people of Israel died.” (21:6)


Hence the way to return to true life is to re-direct our egos in the ways and attributes of love. As we have mentioned before, ego is part of our consciousness and such as it also must act under the yoke of heaven, the yoke of God’s ways.

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘Make yourself a serpent and put it on a pole, and let whoever is bitten look at it and live’.” (21:8)

The portion ends with the verse, “The children of Israel journeyed and encamped in the plains of Moab, across the Jordan from Jericho.” (22:1), where the dangers of falling into negative thoughts and emotions are reminders that our true choice in order to consecrate life is love.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Kochav Yaakov.
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