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Decrees of the King

The Jewish people are built around mitzvot (commandments) and Torah learning. Torah learning is one of the 613 mitzvot and Torah learning is the means of our understanding of the mitzvot. But are mitzvot to be performed even when not understanding them to their full depths?

Moses and Aaron are told by Hashem to command the Jewish people in the laws of the Red Heifer. This mitzvah like several other mitzvot is regarded as a “decree” (chok) type mitzvot, where we are not granted an understanding of the mitzvah’s actual performance.

What makes the Red Heifer unique, is that unlike other “decree” categorized mitzvot, it is introduced to the Jewish people by saying it’s a “decree” (chok) of the “Torah”. But this is quite odd since "Torah" represents learning and understanding. The Red Heifer is the mitzvah that even through Torah learning we are not granted understanding of its depth. The Red Heifer is performed and understood as a “pure” decree from Hashem.

"Hashem spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the decree of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and let them take to you a completely red cow . . .'” Numbers 19:1-2, from this week’s double Torah portion of Chukat & Balak, Numbers 19:1-25:9

*Based on Rashi, the Maharal of Prague and Rabbi Aryeh Shulman of Chicago


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