The Divrei Torah in this section have been translated by Rav Reuven Ungar, Director of Alumni Affairs
The Lesson of the Chukim
By: Rav Moshe Ganz
Parshat Chukat commences with the laws of the red heifer ( parah adumah) that is termed a chok ( halacha that we do not understand the reason). Regarding the parah adumah, Shlomo HaMelech remarked that he did not comprehend the logic of this mitzvah, despite his significant intelligence.
Torah sages dedicated substantial time to delve into the reasons of the Commandments ( ta'amei haMitzvot). They endeavored to comprehend- to the utmost of human understanding- the effect that the fulfillment of a mitzvah has on the person who performs it, on society and on the cosmos as a whole.
The Rambam was a primary force in this camp and he dedicated many chapters in Moreh Nevuchim to this topic. In Mishneh Torah at the conclusion of Hilchot Meila he writes that it is worthwhile for people to contemplate the mitzvoth of the Torah to the best of their ability. He proceeds to warn us that a mitzvah that we do not understand the reason "should not be light in ones eyes...the Torah commands us 'you shall keep all of my chukim and mishpatim (mitzvoth for whom the reasons are apparent) and to fulfill them'...the Torah initially commands observance of the Chukim, as the verse states "you shall observe my Chukim and Mishpatim that man shall perform and live by them' "
Why do the chukim precede the mishpatim? Each mitzvah contains a particular reason. A specific point is being dealt with. However, a more fundamental and general component is present as well- Yirat Shamayim (fear of G-d).
The chukim fortify our base of Yirat Shamayim. Normally, the intellect of an individual participates in the performance of a mitzvah. This is not the case while one fulfills a chok. The individual feels no intellectual connection to the mitzvah at hand. The sole reason that generates fulfillment of the mitzvah is the Divine command. This constitutes pure Yirat Shamayim. The person expresses that he is not a "friend of The Creator" ( chavruta kelapei shamaya). With humility the individual performs the mitzvah, that emanates from Hashem, The Source of all wisdom.
"Fear of Hashem- is the foundation of wisdom". All is contingent upon this principle. Chukim precede Mishpatim!
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