The Mystery of the Red Heifer | Parshat Chukat





The Mystery of the Red Heifer | Parshat Chukat

In Chukat part one we will examine the commandment of the Red Heifer, which comes to purity from defilement from contact with the dead, is followed immediately by the narrative of the death of Miriam. (“The death of Tzaddikim atone’s like the sacrifices” — Rashi on Numbers 20:1). The death of Miriam took place in the last year of wandering in the wilderness, on the 10th Nissan, exactly a year before the crossing of the Jordan and the entry into the Land. This is the first clue to dating the events in this parshat. The ensuing lack of water in the wilderness caused Moses and Aaron to strike the rock, leading to the decree that they would not enter the Land but die in the wilderness. Moses takes Aaron up Mount Hor to die, while Elazar, his son succeeds him as High Priest. We suddenly have to confront the loss of the elders and leaders of the generation. How do we deal with death?

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