Shabbat Rosh Chodesh
Friday, July 1
- 06:50 am – Shacharit
- 07:00 pm – Mincha
- 08:07 pm – Candle Lighting
Saturday, July 2
- 07:45 am – Shacharit at Salem Towers
- 08:45 am – Shacharit
- 08:59 am – Latest Time for Kriat Shema
- 10:15 am – Junior Congregation
- 11:15 am – Kiddush
- 04:45 pm – Ladies’ Class in Brachot (at the Rabinowitz home, 265 Fellsway East)
- 06:30 pm – Men’s Class in Derech Hashem
- 07:40 pm – Mincha
- 08:10 pm – Se’udah Shlishit
- 09:05 pm – Ma’ariv
- 09:15 pm – Shabbat Ends
Week of July 3 – 7
- 08:00 am – Sunday and Monday (Independence Day)
- 06:40 am – Thursday
- 06:50 am – Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday
- 08:10 pm – Monday – Thursday
- 07:00 pm – Friday
- 08:40 pm – Monday – Thursday
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Weekly Words of Torah
Giving Thanks to Hashem
Insights into Parshat Chukat by Mr. Avi Arbesfeld, of Yeshivat Sha’alvim, by Rav Re’uven Ungar of Sha’alvim.
The gemarah in Yoma, 67b explains the difference between chukim and mishpatim: “Mishpatim are those commandments which should have been written down even if they had not been commanded in the Torah, since they are in conformity with human feelings of justice and morality. These are the prohibitions of idolatry, immorality, bloodshed, robbery, and blasphemy. Chukim are all the commandments with which the evil inclination and the non-Jews find fault because they seem beyond human comprehension. These are the prohibitions against the eating of pork, wearing sha’atnez, chalitzah (release from levirate marriage), the purification of the leper, the scapegoat on Yom Kippur, and the Parah Adumah.”
Generally, chukim seem to be irrational, and if not for the Divine imperative, we would never observe them. What exactly is the nature of the chok; and why does the mishpat need the support of the Divine imperative as the chok? Would our social conscience not be sufficient motivation for the mishpat?
Analyzing the chok, Rashi comments on the Parah Adumah: “It is a decree ordained by Me. You have no right to question it” (Bamidbar 19:1). Rav Soloveitchik explains that this comment suggests the chok can be defined as an absolute norm and an ultimate command, demanding total submission without reservations. This is analogous to a patient following the prescription of his doctor, taking complex medications and submitting to required surgical procedures. Just as we have faith when we adhere to the doctor’s orders, so too we have faith in the Creator of the world when it comes to observing His commandments.
According to Rav Soloveitchik, there are two characteristics to the chok. The first is its universal immutability: despite situational factors, changing ideologies, or shifting economic conditions, the chok retains its value. The second characteristic is its incomprehensibility: it demands the surrender of oneʼs mind and thinking. Although man is a rational being, the chok demands that he violate his reason.
This actually explains why the chok is immutable. A chok is unchanging because it is not subject to reason. Only laws based on the intellect are subject to change, for the intellect continually reevaluates and introduces new ideas. The chok, however, rises above human reason and motivation, and therefore remains unchanged despite the passage of time and difference in mood.
We can now understand why there is also a Divine imperative for the mishpatim. Says the Rav, really we perform mishpatim in the same manner as chukim. In fact, we make no distinctions between the two in regards to quality and totality of our commitment. There needs to be a chok dimension to every mishpat because our reason is not a reliable guide even with respect to mishpatim. There are borderline situations which confuse the mind, and consequently finds itself helpless in applying its moral norms. For example, certainly the mind condemns murder. This is particularly true if the victim is a mother of young children, G-d forbid. But is the same true when the victim is a criminal or menace to society? May euthanasia be practiced to relieve the elderly and terminally ill of further suffering? We can easily rationalize in either direction. As a mishpat, murder may at times be tolerated, but as a chok, the prohibition against murder is clear and absolute.
In our modern world, there is hardly a mishpat which has not been repudiated. Logic has shown itself in our time to be incapable of supporting the most basic of moral conduct. The Torah, therefore, insists that a mishpat be accepted as a chok. Our commitment must be unshakable and upheld even when our logic is confused.