Parsha begins with the words, "Zos chukas hatorah
- These are the statutes of the Torah" (Bamidbar 19:2).
As opposed to a mishpat, which is an understandable law with
the authority of human moral justice, Rashi explains that a chok
is a law that doesnt have a clearly comprehendible reason.
The Parsha then continues on to elaborate on the laws of the Parah
Adumah - the red heifer used for ritual cleansing, which is
the quintessential chok.
the end of this discussion is the law regarding a person who dies
in a tent, "This is the Torah (teaching) regarding a man
who would die in a tent" (Bamidbar 19:14). In Mesechta
Brachos 63b, Chazal, in a homiletic interpretation of this passage,
explain that Torah learning requires enormous, self-sacrificing
dedication. In the words of the Gemara "The Torah will not
be lasting except to those who kill themselves for it."
the Torah express this important idea specifically here in the portion
of "Zos chukas hatorah"?
venture to say that the obligation of Torah learning itself is a
chok. In the field of human learning and endeavor, the achievement
of growth through Torah learning is totally unique. Therefore it
falls into the category of a chok because it is incomprehensible.
It is this concept that the Torah is conveying here.
me to explain in greater detail. Most sciences and academics are
studied for the sake of their practical applications. While this
approach is paralleled in Torah learning, when one learns with the
goal of understanding the methods of fulfilling the mitzvos, the
obligation of learning Torah extends beyond this. While there are
areas of academics that are studied for the sake of the knowledge
itself, the Torah also covers fields that lack specific practical
applications, and the obligation to learn Torah extends even to
someone who has perfect knowledge of the entire Torah.
an individuals advancement in secular knowledge is generally
exclusively dependent on their intelligence and the amount of time
and effort they dedicate to the endeavor. However, Torah has another
requirement. As quoted above, Torah demands complete self-sacrificing
dedication. This reality applies even to somebody highly intelligent
who absorbs knowledge quickly.
further a similar concept in Mesechta Megillah 6b. "to establish
your learning requires heavenly assistance." Rashi translates
"establishing your learning" to mean memory, not
forgetting. Even a person with a fantastic memory still requires
heavenly assistance to avoid forgetting.
in Mesechta Shabbos 88b further elaborates on the power of Torah
learning. Chazal teach us that Torah has the power to affect a person
tremendously. If a person of good character learns Torah properly,
he will achieve considerable growth and development. Conversely,
if one learns for the wrong reasons and has negative attributes,
this will also be amplified. The person will grow more evil as
a result of continued Torah learning. This is something that
is unique to the study of Torah.
are countless other examples of this concept, but I will summarize
by restating that the study of Torah is totally unique. It stands
apart and above all other human knowledge and endeavor and does
not function within the realms of ordinary human intelligence. Thus,
it is referred to as a chok.
Published July 3,1998