Mental Health Insights From Parshat Chukat: There Is Always More to Know

This week’s parsha can be very perplexing. We are given a set of commandments called “chukim” (as opposed to those that are known as “mishpatim.”) The Talmud defines mishpatim as laws that “if they had not been written, reason would require that they be written.” Essentially, even if God hadn’t had commanded them, human beings would have recognized the need for them anyway: they make sense!  On the other hand, the Talmud says that “Chok implies something that is nothing but a decree by command of the king.”  These laws, such as pushing a cow over the side of the mountain and burning its ashes, or the prohibition of wearing garments that are made of both linen and wool, do not make any sense at all! Chukim seem completely irrational.

The Rambam, however tells us that if any of the chukim seem irrational, it is merely due to “either to the deficiency of our knowledge or the weakness of our intellect.” Whoa! That is pretty strong language!  Rambam states clearly that every single commandment (both positive and negative) has purpose, however, in some cases the usefulness of the commandment is generally evident, and these are called “judgements” (mishpatim). In other cases, however, the usefulness is generally unclear, and these are called “statutes” (chukim).

What we must know is that all of the mitzvot have reasons, however their reasons are not always known to us!

I don’t know about you, but so often in my personal life I cannot make sense of what is going on. No matter how hard I try, it just doesn’t make sense. So I keep trying to the point where I am figuratively (or literally!) banging my head against a wall! What about the ongoing violence in Israel and the UN’s response? What about the 2016 election? Does any of it make sense?

I think we can learn some powerful lessons from this parsha.

The TRUTH is (you can disagree if you want, but I know it is true!), that while we human beings are by definition limited, we must realize that every single person is created and powered by the Ultimate Source of Knowledge.  It’s the difference between limiting myself by getting caught up in “personal thought” (“I know everything there is to know” or at the very least “I will figure it out!”) and the reality that I am always (as in never-gonna-not-be!) connected to the Boundless Power and Source of Wisdom, and it is by looking towards that Source that something fresh and new get in.

You don’t have to believe me. Try it for yourself!

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