Happy Father’s Day Weekend!

Shabbat Parashat Chukat  
June 15, 2013 – 7 Tammuz 5773

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Happy Father’s Day Weekend!


What could Father’s Day weekend possibly have to do with our weekly Torah portion of Chukkat?

The first thing that came to mind when I thought of that question was that a “chukkah” is a law that does not come with a specific “reasoning” attached to it. It is something akin to: “Just do as I say!”

The prime example of a “chukkah” in the Torah, is the ritual of the red heifer that we learn about in our weekly Torah Parsha of Chukkat.

What was that ritual all about?

In ancient times, people who came in close contact with death were to undergo a ritual which included the sprinkling of a few drops of water, mixed with a bit of ashes of a red heifer, before they could once again take part in Tabernacle rituals of holiness.

The point of this requirement was to emphasize Judaism’s strong association of holiness with life, rather than with death.

In Jewish thought, it is the experience of life, with all of its difficulties and challenges, that holds the greatest potential for holiness.

Yet, the details of this ritual, and in particular the Torah teaching that the person who does the sprinkling of the water in the ritual of the red heifer, thus enabling someone else to return to the higher realms of ritual holiness, becomes ineligible to enter those very same realms of ritual holiness for a period of time. In fact, the person who sprinkles the water on the person who had come in close contact with death, must him/herself become the recipient of the same ritual cleansing, before returning to full Tabernacle participation! Why? Well, it is a “chukkah” – that’s just the way it is!

So, when I sought a connection between our weekly Torah portion and Father’s Day Weekend, I first thought of the popular image of fathers as being the ones who “lay down the law,” oftentimes with no explanations offered or even expected! Of course, this is not always so….

In continuing to ponder the question of the connection between Father’s Day Weekend and our Torah portion, I thought of the fact that in our weekly Torah portion we learn about Moses and Aaron being told that they would not enter the Promised Land…

It occurred to me that these two father figures, different as they were from one another, led our people through times of great difficulty – through enslavement, through the desert, through wars, and through shortages of water. They also led our people to the heights of spirituality – to Mount Sinai, to the celebration of Torah, to the daily involvement with continued learning and interpreting God’s word, to founding systems of courts and mediation processes in the desert. They truly were amazing. And they were human. They made mistakes. They didn’t always get it right. Yet, they remain our teachers, our spiritual mentors, and our inspiration.

And so, as we read more and more about Moses and Aaron, and consider their humanity, along with their unique and individual contributions both to the Jewish people and to the world at large, we might also relate our thoughts about the weekly Torah portion to our thoughts, appreciation and celebration of our modern day fathers as well!

I take this opportunity to wish all of our Rodef Sholom Temple families a Happy Father’s Day Weekend!

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Gilah Dror