July 20, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Chukat: Popping the Question with a Red Heifer

It would definite­ly happen that night. Af­ter months of specula­tion, Rebecca was certain that Jonathan was final­ly going to pop the ques­tion. At least, she was relatively certain. They had been dating for a year, and she had nev­er been happier. Jonathan was also floating on air. He had said those three special words over six months ago, and now it was just a matter of time before he got his act together. Jonathan had nonchalantly inquired about her ring size six weeks before, so she had thought he might propose at any time. Then nothing happened for what felt like an eternity. But tonight defi­nitely looked good. Jonathan had purchased Orchestra seats for them to see Les Miserable on Broadway, and he was normally—how shall I say it?—fiscally conservative. Then, after the show, he had taken her back to Yo Fat Chai, the Chinese restaurant in Chelsea where they had gone on their first date. He would only take her back to this low class dive for one reason…

Jonathan sat across from Rebecca at the res­taurant table and felt like he was having a pan­ic attack. His mouth was dry and his palms were sweaty. His head was spinning. The engage­ment ring felt like it was burning a hole through his pocket. Still, he was excited in a good way, too. He ordered egg drop soup and General Tso’s Chicken. Rebecca chose the beef lo mein with an egg roll. Jonathan thought that was what she had ordered on her first date as well, though at that moment, he wasn’t quite sure of anything…

Jonathan: So how did you like the show?

Rebecca: It was great. I’m usually not into Andrew Lloyd Webber, but I thought the stag­ing was magnificent. And the actor who played Jean Valjean was awesome.

J: Uh huh.

Long Pause

R: Are you okay?

J: Yeah, I’m just a little preoccupied.

R: Oh?

J: Yeah. I was thinking I should have ordered the sweet and sour chicken instead of General Tso. It’s too spicy.

R: Oh.

Another Long Pause

J: Beck?

R: Yeah?

J: I’ve been thinking.

R: Yeah?

J: I just wanted to tell you that, well, you know that I love you, right?

R: Yeah?

J: Well, I’ve been thinking about us, and about this week’s parsha, and about us again, and I just wanted to say…

R: Yes? Yes?

J: My love for you is like the parah aduma.

R: What did you just say?

J: I said my love for you is like the parah adu­ma, the red heifer.

R: I heard you the first time. I was just trying to give you another chance. Did you just call me a cow?

J: No, of course not. I mean, yes, sort of. I mean, not in the way you think.

R (fighting back tears): What should I think?

J: Well, in this week’s parsha, Chukat, Hashem commands Moshe and Aharon to pre­pare a red heifer to be burned, in order to purify those who become contaminated from contact with a dead body.

R: This had better be good.

J: It is, I promise. The commandment of the parah aduma is the quintessential chok, a de­cree with no obvious reason. We are asked to do it only because God commanded us. To me, this mitzvah shows Israel’s true love of God. It is mysterious. It is irrational. We can’t explain it, but we do it. That’s what love is like. Do you see what I mean?

R: Not really.

J: Becks, I love you with my whole soul. It’s ir­rational, and I can’t explain it, but it’s true.

R: Wow.

J: So now have you got it?

R: No, not really, but I liked what you said, an­yway.

J (getting down on one knee): Let me give this one last try. Within the decree of the parah aduma is a paradox. The people the ashes of the red heifer touch get purified, but Elazar haKo­hen, the person commanded to prepare it be­comes tamei ad ha’arev, contaminated until the evening. That which causes purity also leads to contamination. It makes no logical sense, but it’s true nonetheless. Don’t you see?

R: I suppose.

J: True love can at times be paradoxical, but since it’s unconditional, you accept the paradox.

R: Okay, okay, I get it.

J: I’m glad we cleared that up. Now, [pulls out the ring] Rebecca Levov, will you marry me?

Short Pause

R: Yes, you overly analytical twit. Yes, I will marry you.

J: Thank God. I was worried I was going to have to bring out the Sforno’s more allegorical approach to parah aduma to convince you.

R: Oh, Jonathan, you are such a romantic.

By Larry Stiefel

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