"This is the statute of the Torah -- I have enacted a statute
and you have no permission to question it" --
This is a reminder, says the Chasam Sofer, that the entire
Torah is, in effect, far beyond human comprehension. We study
Torah and attempt to understand it. We may sometimes believe
that we have succeeded in grasping something, but we must
never forget that the Torah is no mere book that is no more
profound than the human mind that composed it. The Torah is,
after all, divine.
King Shlomo, wisest of all men, admitted, when confronted
with this portion, "I thought I would be wise, but it is
distant from me." In his humble opinion, says the Chasam
Sofer, King Shlomo thought that he was able to understand the
reasons, the divine rationale, behind all of the
commandments. But when he reached the portion of poro
adumo, he realized that it was beyond him. At this point,
he was forced to admit that there was yet a deeper level
which he would never be able to fathom.
Surely there was a reason for this commandment, since the
Creator would not trouble His people with senseless orders.
The reason, then, must be extremely deep, beyond human
capacity to understand. And from this conclusion he inferred
that all of the commandments were so beyond human grasp, that
they were all, in effect, statutes, as far as our
understanding was concerned. We could never begin to fathom
the divine intellect behind them.
"This is why he said: I thought I would be wise -- in the
reasons of the Torah, but when I reached the laws of poro
adumo, it was far removed from me. He meant that at this
point he realized that the entire Torah was also far removed
from his understanding. This is the meaning of: This is the
statute of the Torah: the entire Torah is in the category of
We tend to set ourselves up as `experts' on the Torah, for we
delve and try to understand it. And as such, when we reach
the portion of the red heifer, it seems strange and
inscrutable. How, we ask, can the selfsame thing be purifying
and also contaminating? The real question we should ask
ourselves is how we can presume to understand the rest of the
Torah, as well? It is a divine Torah, the product of the
divine wisdom. How can mortals audaciously think they can
The Maggid of Dubno draws our attention to this point and
illustrates it with a parable: A cunning matchmaker thought
of an idea which, at first glance, seemed simply
preposterous. The town rabbi had a son of marriageable age
and was `in the market' for a shidduch. In this same
town lived a very coarse man who had a very lowly,
disrespectful profession; he was a person that others shied
away from. He had a daughter who was the opposite of her
father: refined, accomplished, modest, respected and liked, a
paragon of virtue. Ostensibly, on her own merits, she could
make a very suitable match for the rabbi's son.
But who could possibly bring the two together in matrimony?
The very idea of uniting the two mechutonim was
ludicrous and preposterous. Besides, it would be totally
disrespectful to the rabbi and his position.
The matchmaker was a match for this challenge and he decided
to try his luck since, as far as the two in question, the
idea was most suitable. And so he went to the rabbi and
proposed his idea, point blank, without beating around the
The rabbi was an aristocratic person, an exalted figure of
pure motives who truly wanted the best for his son: a wife of
exemplary character. And when he heard the praises of the
person in question, he overlooked the negative aspects and
told the matchmaker to go ahead, regardless of `what people
would say.' And so it was that the shidduch proceeded
to fruition, to everyone's satisfaction.
As time went by, the girl's father noticed that the rabbi was
acting coolly towards him. He no longer engaged him in polite
conversation; he did not tell him of the interesting cases
that appeared before him in the beis din or present
the difficult questions that he encountered in his study. The
layman felt slighted and approached the rabbi in indignation.
"Why have you been ignoring me lately? Why don't you talk to
me any more?"
The rabbi was taken aback. "You dare ask questions like that?
Do you really think that I should associate with folk like
you? What can we possibly have in common? We are worlds
apart! The question to be asked is whatever brought us
together in the first place? Not why we don't keep company
and converse like friends!"
The lesson is clear, writes the Maggid in his work, Ohel
Yaakov: Hashem formed a relationship with a very lowly
creature, a flesh-and-blood mortal, and gave him His divine
Torah. The Jew peruses the Torah and when he chances across
something he does not understand, he is puzzled and asks: Why
didn't Hashem make this matter clear? Why does He talk in
riddles rather than in plain talk?
The answer is forthcoming: Man is operating under a
misunderstanding. He thinks that the two sides of the match
are equal and fitting. And if he finds difficulty in
something, it behooves Hashem to make it clear. But the
situation is not like that at all. On the contrary, the glory
of Hashem lies in what is hidden, concealed. The tie between
them lies in what is unrevealed, what is obscure, and must
This is the statute of the Torah which Hashem commanded,
saying . . . And man must not presume to inquire, ask or
demand explanation and reasons. Man must make peace with the
fact that things are far beyond his keen, for he is a mere
mortal who cannot ever hope to understand the divine logic.
How, indeed, could he ever dream of possessing such a
treasure as the Torah -- and fully grasping its worth?
Parshas Chukas, therefore, constitutes an important
reminder, especially to those who delve and toil in Torah and
seek to understand it.
The obligation remains for us to dig deep and to search for
what lies hidden in Torah. But let us not delude ourselves
into feeling `heimish,' (comfortable,) akin and `at
ease' with it. However hard we toil, it shall always remain
far beyond us. "I sought to be wise, but it is distant from