A sidra is named after its first important Hebrew word, not necessarily because of its content. In this week’s sidra, however, we find both at once. Chukkat (“statute”) is both the name and the subject: the strange rule of the red heifer.
Ancient man, like the modern generation, puzzled over this command. Why obey a rule for which no obvious reason can be offered?
There is ingenuity behind various explanations, but in the end such laws must be obeyed not because of our logic but because of the will of God.
Does this mean a Jew sometimes has to go on blind faith? The answer is yes. If I knew all about everything, if I could master all the secrets of the universe, I would no longer be man – I would be God.
The fact that some things are beyond me makes me humble: I am both “little lower than the angels” (Psalm 8), and not as high as the angels.
Realism tells me to discover who I am, but also what I am not and never can be.