Did you ever think that in an imperfect world there can be an entity of perfection? Would it be comforting to know that you could attach yourself to a manifestation of perfection? In a world of confusion and doubt that has recently seen people taking their own lives, it’s important to know that a positive aspect of perfection exists to cling onto. Surely, as people we could never be perfect, nor is it expected. Even God created and destroyed worlds before Creation to introduce mistakes and second chances in this world. However, man may rejoice in that he may connect to perfection through a specific medium to be discussed.
Parshat Chukat pinpoints and defines the perfect entity that exists in the world. Before seeing it in the parsha though, it’s worthy to share a thought I heard from my late relative, Rav Avrohom Genechovsky, zt”l, previous rosh yeshiva of Tshiben.
At the Shabbos table on a Friday night, he relayed to me that in Eishet Chayil we say, gemelat’u tov velo ra, “she does him good and not bad.” The straightforward understanding is that this is referring to a woman of valor, who indeed is purely good. Rav Avrohom, zt”l, noted that this verse is allegorically referring to the Torah as well, and the idea is that not only is the Torah purely good, but it’s not bad either. The obvious question is then: If it’s purely good, then by inference it’s not bad; why the redundancy? He answered with an analogy. Sometimes in life you have things that have good and bad mixed into them; for instance, a dish that might have good flavors as well as bad ones. However, with regard to the Torah, not only is it purely good, but it’s not bad—it has not an iota of inadequacy; it’s perfect.
Let us apply this inference to the beginning of Parshat Chukat that discusses the red heifer. Though the reasoning behind the red heifer remained hidden even to Shlomo HaMelech, the words written in the parsha give us a glimpse into the perfect Torah using Rav Avrohom’s idea. Why the red heifer should allegorically refer to the Torah is a thought to ponder, but perhaps not for this article.
The parsha states, zot chukat haTorah, “this is the chok of the Torah.” In this verse, Torah is a noun, not an adjective. Therefore, the pasuk is prefacing to say that this upcoming “chok” is the Torah. It personifies what the Torah is. It states further, v’yikchu eleicha para aduma temima asher ein ba mum, asher lo ala aleha ol, “take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.”
The word v’yikchu allegorically refers to the “Torah itself,” as we know it states elsewhere, ki lekach tov natati lachem. The word temima refers to the Torah as well, as it says elsewhere, Torat Hashem temima meshivat nafesh. Now, the beauty of Rav Avrohom’s idea of the redundant language in Eishet Chayil can be applied here. It states here “temima asher ein ba mum, complete with no blemish.” Well, we may ask, if it (the red heifer, which is allegorically referring to the Torah) must be complete, then obviously there may be no blemish. But since this is referring allegorically to the Torah, the understanding is that not only is the Torah complete, but it has no blemish, it is perfect. And the verse ends, asher lo ala aleha ol, “upon which no yoke was laid.” Since we are discussing the Torah of perfection, no ol is upon it. It’s Torah in its perfect state.
In a tumultuous world, where one wants to feel secure and whole, there is an answer. Though we are imperfect beings, we can know and toil in a document of perfection that has the power to mold our minds and hearts. Celebratory feelings should emerge knowing that we can study a document of perfection and come closer to a God Who doesn’t expect perfection, from us but still gives us a link to perfection.
By Steven Genack
Steven Genack is the author of the upcoming book “Articles, Anecdotes & Insights,” Genack/Genechovsky Torah from Gefen Press.