Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Steadfast Emunah - Rocklike Obedience

Hike to a Wellspring near Bat Ayin - part of the "Grow and Let Grow" Summer Eco Beit Midrash Program

We have entered the heat of Tamuz enjoying the last chances to play our instruments in happy rejoicing before the three weeks of semi-morning. As we come closer to the mourning for the destruction of the Temple we are called to purify our hearts from jealousy and anger, and strengthen our emunah. Parashat Chukat is about strengthening our emunah, even in the mitzvot that don’t make sense, like the mitzvah of the Red Heifer which opens our Torah portion.

Although I have been Torah observant for more than thirty years, I must admit that there are mitzvot which are still difficult for me to relate to. They are mostly things that that we can’t do on Shabbat, regarding putting things away and keeping the home tidy. I hope the meditation I designed, with the dual purpose of strengthening our emunah to prevent anger and accept trans-rational mitzvot, will help me too keep all of Hashem’s commandments with happiness.

Enjoy your summer!
With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Parasha Meditation Chukat
Bamidbar 19:1-21:35
Parashat Chukat is about trans-rationally accepting Hashem’s decrees through steadfast emunah. The word “chukat” from the root “chok” means “statute” – a law that cannot be fathomed by the human mind. The laws of the Red Heifer (Para Aduma), which opens our parasha, are likewise beyond rational logic. In our time and day, it is very difficult to obey laws that we don’t understand. Even the words “to obey” and “commandment” grate our ears, and are no longer political correct. The gematria (numerical value) value of the word chok is 108. This is the same gematria as in the phrase “זה בכל לבבי” – “this is with all my heart.”[1] When our mind has reached its limit, and can no longer relate, that is when we need to apply our full heart in love and commitment.

Rocklike Obedience
By hitting the rock instead of talking to it, Moshe defied applying all his heart to fulfill Hashem commandment, thereby forfeiting a precious opportunity to teach the Jewish people about the importance of desire to obey Hashem. For had Moshe spoken to the rock and it had brought forth water, Hashem would have been sanctified before the whole congregation, for they would have said: What is the case with this rock which cannot speak and cannot hear and needs no maintenance? It fulfills the bidding of the Omnipresent G-d! How much more should we do so?[2] Rocklike obedience derives from steadfast emunah. Hitting the rock was an expression of lack of emunah which Moshe was criticized for. “Because you did not believe in Me, to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel…”[3]

The Iron Curtain of Anger
According to Rambam, Moshe’s main sin was that he lost his patience and got angry with the children of Israel when he exclaimed: “Hear you now you rebels!”[4] G-d reproached him for this, for it is inappropriate for a man of his stature to lose his cool before the entire community of Israel. This behavior constituted chilul Hashem (profanation of G-d), since Moshe was supposed to be the model of good conduct for all the people.[5] Anger is an expression of lack of emunah. It constitutes an iron curtain against accepting Hashem’s will through every challenge we face. Sure the children can be obnoxious, and things don’t always go our way. However, rather than taking the staff in our own hand and hit with it, let us recognize Hashem’s power that the staff represents, and accept what comes our way.

This meditation is designed to help strengthen your emunah, prevent anger and accept Hashem’s trans-rational commandments. Close your eyes and make yourself comfortable in your seat. Breathe deeply several times. Imagine breathing into your eyes three times, relaxing all tension from them, relax your eyes, relax them even more. Allow the actions of your day or the previous day or two to flow through you, and think about a difficult situation that you faced, where you began to lose it.

Go through what happened in your mind’s eye. What did the person do or say that made you so upset? Which angry thought are you still harboring? Imagine your negative thoughts as clouds. Allow the clouds of all your negativity to pass by you without hanging on to them. Breathe into each of them, slowly and relaxed. As you breathe, visualize each of them dissolving, disappearing back into the bright blue sky. Now go back to the last interaction you recall where you fell short. Accept yourself completely where you were at. Make a fist with your hand and rub you’re your chest on the left near your heart while reciting three times: “Although I feel/did/said/ X (fill in the blank) I still love and appreciate myself.” Now imagine what happened again, but this time, reconstruct your act in the scene to the ideal way you would have liked to see yourself speak/behave. Imagine a circle of light around yourself acting/speaking the ideal way. This circle of light will guard the inner vision of your potential self, to bring you closer to fulfilling it, when the opportunity arises.

Now imagine a mitzvah from the Torah which is difficult for you to fulfill – A precept that doesn’t make sense to you. Visualize how this mitzvah emerges from the light of the Almighty G-d. Imagine Hashem’s powerful light zapping up all your resistance to the particular mitzvah you have a hard time with. Now it is time to transform our mental attitude to learn to surrender. Recite in your mind’s voice: “Oh Hashem, Thy will be done....” Imagine yourself opening your hands to receive and accept the gift of this mitzvah with grace. Mentally place it in your heart – and make a resolution to accept this mitzvah with your entire heart as you recite the following phrase three times: “זה בכל לבבי” – “this is with all my heart.” When you are ready, you can return back into your life with renewed acceptance and peace.

Even the master of the prophets stumbled in the matter of emunah, as it states in this week’s Parasha “Because you believed Me not…”[6] Maharal explains that Moshe’s anger derived from a lack of emunah. Steadfast emunah brings about song and happiness, thereby precluding anger. It was G-d’s will that Moshe speak to the rock. Therefore, He had prepared the miracle that the rock would respond to speech, because He desired that the children of Israel accept His precepts and be drawn to G-d through happiness rather than through force. Witnessing the rock happily deciding “on its own” to produce water, when softly requested to do so, rather than being hit, would inspire the children of Israel to likewise happily decide to do Hashem’s bidding without being forced to. [7] May we walk along the path of the true way of emunah, which is only through good will and happiness!

[1] I found this gematria in Dr. Yisroel Sisskind’s email comment to Parashat Chukat, July 2011.
Rashi, Bamidbar 20:12.
Bamidbar 20:12.
Bamidbar 20:10.
The Introductions of the Rambam, Shmoneh Perakim, Chapter 4.
Bamidbar 20:12.
Maharal, Gevurat Hashem, Chapter seven.


  1. This is so inspiring! I copied down these words because they speak to me personally this week, and definitely relate to my own life - "When our mind has reached its limits, and can no longer relate, that is when we need to apply our full heart in love and commitment." Those are truly words for us in many circumstances in our lives. Thank you for this Torah portion, Rebbetzin!

  2. Thank you for your comment Mia, may we all be able to fulfill these beautiful words!