This Week’s Torah Portion: Chukat

Name: Chukat

Reading: Numbers 19:1 – 22:1

Haftarah: Judges 11:1 – 11:33

Parsha Summary – Chukat

The Red Heifer

God tells Moses about a purification process to cleanse people who have come into contact with a dead body. They must find a blemish-free, pure red cow who has never worked and sacrifice her in front of the camp. Her blood is sprinkled around the altar and then the cow is burnt completely, with cedar wood. The ashes are then used for purification. One who touches a corpse is unclean for seven days. If the corpse is in a tent, then the tent and all its possessions are also unclean. Impure people and objects must be purified.

Miriam Dies, and Moses and the Rock

The Israelites settle into Kadesh in the Zin wilderness. Miriam (sister of Moses and Aaron) dies there and is buried. The people complain to Moses and Aaron that there is no water. They say that it would have been better to stay in Egypt, for this place has no seeds or figs or wine or pomegranates, or water.

God tells Moses and Aaron to take their rods and speak to the rock; this will bring forth water for the Israelites to drink. Moses instead lifts his rod and strikes the rock. God tells Moses that because he didn’t trust Him, he will not see the Israelites’ new land.

Snakes and Victories

The Israelites continue travelling. Moses requests safe passage from the Edomite king, but he is denied. God tells Moses that Aaron is going to die. He gives his priestly garments to his son Eleazar and dies on top of Mount Hur. The Israelites mourn him for thirty days.

God sends fiery snakes among the Israelites to punish them for complaining. The snake bites are strong enough to kill a person. They beg Moses to save them, so God tells him to build a brass snake. All who see the snake are saved from death.

The children of Israel continue their journey. God leads them to triumphant victory over enemies who do not wish to let them pass.