Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Chukas) Crumpled $100 Bill
A speaker, standing in front of an audience, took out a $100 bill and asked, “Would anyone here throw this out?” The answer was of course a resounding, “No.” He then folded the bill and asked the same question. The response was the same. He folded it over again, and again asked the question and received the same response.
He then crumpled it up until it was merely a ball and still the response was the same. Finally, he covered the bill in dirt, and they all still agreed they would keep the bill.
He then pointed out something enlightening: When we know the worth of something, we don’t throw it out just because its value is concealed; we keep it and try to reveal its true worth.
This applies to the way we judge people, places, things and religion.
Everyone has their faults, and it is not always easy to see the good in people. Sometimes what we see on the surface can be quite unappealing. However, we must look inside to discover the beauty we know is hidden in every person. Every Jew is created in the Tselem Elokim - the Divine Image; this is a person’s true essence. Every person has been sent into this world with a unique purpose, therefore we should not dismiss the importance of anyone just because it is difficult to see his value.
In this week’s portion the Torah relates that Aaron the High Priest passed away, and that every single Jewish person cried over his death. What was it about Aaron that generated such mourning? Our Sages tell us that Aaron had the uncanny ability to befriend those who didn’t feel good about themselves or were involved in sin. His mere association with them got them to recognize their potential and purpose and spurred them on to live a more productive life.
Aaron also had the ability to draw quarrelling people together and settle their disputes. Aaron’s absence caused them all to reflect on what they once had and was now missing, bringing everyone to tears and mourning.
This applies to places and things as well. We grow accustomed to the amenities and things that we have, usually it is only when the item or thing disappears or is taken from us that we reflect and truly appreciate what we had. Particularly, if the item or thing is returned, one gains a renewed and improved appreciation.
This lesson can also be learned from this week’s Parsha. Our Sages tell us that a well of water emerged from a rock providing them with hydration throughout their travels. This well came in the merit of Miriam, and with Miriam’s death it dried up. After Miriam passed away, the Torah relates that the Jews in the desert became thirsty and complained to Moshe, and he reinstated the well. Only after it was reinstated did the Jews compose a special song extolling the virtues of this special miracle.
The same is true concerning religion and commandments. Oftentimes, it is not appreciated or understood.
The reasons for the Torah and its Mitzvos are sometimes openly revealed; at times they are only revealed through study of our Oral Tradition; and at times the reasons are not revealed to us at all. In fact, the title of this week’s parsha is Chukas, which means a statute, a category of law for which no logical reason is given for its performance.
We may wonder why do we do it if we can’t understand it?
When the open Torah scroll is lifted in synagogue, the entire congregation looks at it and recites, “This is the Torah that Moshe placed before the Children of Israel, by the instruction of G-d and entrusted to Moshe.” This is a declaration that we all agree that the Torah is our Divine document, and that the Torah has immense value. In fact if, Heaven forbid, a Torah scroll falls to the ground, those present should fast.
Through the realization that the Torah has intrinsic worth we do the mitzvos even though their reasons are concealed from us, just as we know the true value of the folded $100 bill despite its being folded again and again.
An even more distressing and confusing situation is when, sorry to say, the Torah is disrespected, misinterpreted and mocked. This also comes about because of the lack of appreciation of the value of the Torah. This can be compared to the $100 bill that has been crumpled or covered with dirt.
When the Torah scroll is raised and spread open we stand up in solidarity declaring our acknowledgment and respect of the Divinity of the Torah, and confirming its great value, worth and significance. Through this appreciation, Torah and its Mitzvos can be progressively embraced and appreciated, bringing us to explore its multitude of layers of beauty, brilliance, substance, holiness and G-dliness!
Wishing you a restful, peaceful and inspirational Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks