Parasha Chukat 5780 – Chukim, boundaries of past beliefs and unlimited potential

“This is the law (Chukat) of the Torah…” – Bamidbar 19:2

Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk asks “Shouldn’t the pasuk say more specifically, ‘This is the law (chok) of the Parah – the heifer,’ since the Torah is introducing the topic of the parah adumah…” vs. “This is the ‘chukat’ of the Torah”.

Rashi also has several questions on this phrase, he says “Won’t the satan and the nations taunt Israel and say, ‘what is this commandment (specifically the red heifer)? Why do you perform it? This is why it is called a ‘chok’, implying that it is a decree from HaShem therefore they have no right to criticize it…”  Rebbe Elimelech goes on to point out the logical problem here – if people who believe in HaShem were the ones asking this question then it would be easy to respond that we should not doubt HaShem’s ways and that we obey Him even without explanation. Since, however, it is the nations as Rashi says, it would be good if we could explain the reason behind such mysterious and odd commandments in order that we could give answers to the non-believer.

The Torah that was given to us is made up of two parts: the revealed aspect and the hidden aspect, which respectively correspond to yirah and ahava.  The revealed aspects of the Torah, the parts that can be explained, are, by nature, limited and finite. This part can be explained through the eyes of science and moral values.  The hidden aspects, however, those parts that have not yet been revealed, are infinite and without bounds. 

Rebbe Elimelech explains Rashi’s answer that if all of the Torah could be explained away the non-believer would do just that.  Through logic he would use intellect to explain all of the aspects of the Torah and “prove” his points of disbelief. Because Chukim are part of the hidden, unlimited part of Torah we can answer the nations of the world with innovations of thought and expansiveness that are without limit.  In that way, the potential of the Torah remains unlimited and infinite in nature.

In the beginning HaShem said “let us make man in our image” Bereishis 1:26. Who was HaShem speaking to? The Ramban says that one of the possible answers is that Hashem was speaking to the earth. That each stage of creation HaShem built upon the next.  So HaShem formed man from the earth which is alluded to in the words, אדם ואדמה, human being and earth, giving us our physical attributes.  When He breathed into us a soul He gave us our spiritual aspects.

Through this concept, body and soul, we can be compared to the Torah.  Just like the Torah, we have both a revealed aspect and a hidden aspect. Rebbe Elimelech speaks of these aspects as being associated with Yirah, the revealed, and Ahava, the hidden. 

As we reflect upon our lives, aspects that have been revealed in the past, can form limiting beliefs about who we are, what our purpose is and how much potential we have.  Our inner skeptic, the non-believer, uses these limiting beliefs to explain why we are the way we are and why we will never be able to change those things. After all, look at the past, look at what has been revealed.

But when we strengthen ourselves to connect to the hidden part of the Torah, the hidden part of ourselves – that which has not been revealed, then we realize that there is nothing but infinite potential. 

With this understanding we can maybe see something deeper into what Rashi was saying and why the Torah brings the pasuk this way. “This is the law (Chukat) of the Torah…” – maybe this is meant to teach us that, like the Torah, the hidden yet to be revealed parts of us are what give us strength to answer the voice of the non-believer inside. That when the “Satan” says to us, who do you think you are, look at your past, look at what has been revealed and begins to show us how all of the revealed parts of our lives define us. We can stand strong and say to that voice with confidence, there is so much more to me that has yet to be revealed. There is infinite potential in who I am. And as Rashi points out the believer doesn’t need to hear this, because “He already knows” – it is davka the inner non-believer, who lives in the world of limiting beliefs that needs to hear that not everything can be explained and defined by what has been revealed. Through this Yirah is transformed from fear, to Awe and wonder – as it gazes upon the pure limitless love and potential of our future selves. 


HaShem thank you for all of the words of your Torah that wash my heart clean, that give me strength and hope to know that the best is yet to come. Thank you for helping me to feel that as I age that my life is not defined by where I have been but only through the pure ahava of those places that I have not been yet, the places of potential and greater light. Please forgive me for allowing myself to get stuck in the limiting beliefs of “what can be explained about me” – help me to never listen to that limiting voice, the inner voice of disbelief. Thank you for giving me the Torah and the Tzaddikim that through their example show me that the potential of Divine light is drawn into the world through what has not yet been revealed, through the place that cannot be touched by the skeptical inner voice. Abba, I love you, and I desire to be all that you created me to be. Open my heart to be faithful to walk bravely into the space of the unexplainable, the place of infinite potential, the place where I can meet you free of the limiting beliefs of my past, that which has been revealed. 

Good Shabbos,

Shimon Aaron

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