The 613 Mitzvot of the Torah are divided into three categories. One grouping are Mishpatim — laws that man’s moral sense would have dictated. These are purely rational laws that man would have promulgated without Torah guidance. Nevertheless, we observe them not because we understand their correctness, but rather, because they are the will of Hashem. Thus, even if man’s perverted logic may sometimes declare them wrong and unacceptable, we will continue observing them because His Divine intelligence dictated them.

The second group are eidot — testimonials. These attest to Hashem being our G‑d and we are His people, an example for these would be Shabbat, Tefillin and circumcision.

The third category are chukim — decrees — these are laws that reason cannot explain. Satan and the nations taunt Israel saying, “What is the purpose of these commandments?” An example of some of these unfathomable statutes would be the prohibition against the consumption of forbidden meat, wearing shatnez — mixture of wools and linen — and laws of tumah and taharah — contamination and purification.

This week’s parshah of Chukat starts with discussing the quintessential decree of the Torah, the red heifer or as some call it the red cow. It discusses in detail the axiomatic law that the one who became defiled because of contact with a corpse can regain his purity by being sprinkled with water containing ashes of the red cow.

Many commentaries observe a difficulty in the introductory pasukZot chukat haTorah — “This is the decree of the Torah [which G‑d commanded, they shall take to you a completely red cow”] (19:2).

Instead of saying “Zot chukat haTorah” — “This is the statute of the Torah” — it should have said “Zot chukat parah adumah — “This is the statute of the red heifer”?

Permit me to share with you a beautiful interpretation from the Lubavitcher Rebbe about the decree of the red cow.

The laws concerning the parah adumah are paradoxical. On the one hand, when the mixture is sprinkled on the defiled person he becomes cleansed. On the other hand, those who are involved in the preparation of the parah adumah become defiled.

The Kohanim appointed to prepare the parah adumah may rationally argue, “Why should we become defiled for the sake of those who were not careful to avoid contact with a corpse?”

Regardless of this argument, which superficially appears to be valid and sensible, the Torah did not reckon with our intellect and issued the paradoxical and incomprehensible law of the red cow of which even King Shlomo, the wisest of all men exclaimed, “I said I would be wise, but it is far from me” (Ecclesiastes 7:23, Midrash Rabbah 19:3).

In addition to the simple and literal meaning of all Torah laws and verses, we can also derive from them lessons for our daily life. Thus, though the actual law itself may not be practiced currently, the message implied is eternal.

Hence, it could be said that the statute of parah adumah teaches that a Jew must help another Jew even if it requires sacrifice. This is “chukat haTorah” — “a basic principle of Torah” — and though we may not easily comprehend it, we must practice it in our daily lives.

There is a popular adage, “Give till it hurts.” Unfortunately, many people give when it hurts, but very few give till it hurts. The statute of parah adumah, which is described as “the statute of Torah,” teaches us to help another Jew even if it hurts, and this is what Torah teaches and Torah requests of every Jew.

As we continue on into the parshah, we see that juxtaposed with red cow is the story of the “waters of strife” which relates the most incomprehensible and extremely puzzling behavior of Moshe Rabbeinu.

Miriam dies and there is insufficient drinking water for the people and the cattle. Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the sela — rock — and miraculously there will be an ample supply of water. In lieu of speaking to the rock Moshe smites it twice and because of blatantly violating Hashem instructions he forfeits his chance to enter the promised land. He is now destined to expire in the wilderness.

There is no doubt that if G‑d had spoken directly even to a very ordinary person, he would not have the gall to disobey. How can we explain our greatest leader’s disobedience of Hashem? Moshe was the one through whom Hashem made awesome miracles in Egypt; did he suddenly, G‑d forbid, doubt Hashem capabilities?

What bothers me even more is that while Hashem considered this a very serious error on the part of Moshe, yet in our Sh’mini Atzeret prayers for rain, we consider Moshe’s smiting the sela — rock — a meritorious act, and we beseech Hashem “to grant rain in the merit of Moshe who struck the sela — rock — and water came forth.” Chabad even made a joyous song to the words “al hasela hach vayeitz’u mayim.” Why is this listed as one of Moshe’s great deeds when he was punished for it most severely?

(This obviously refers to the incident in our parshah and not Shemot 17:6 where Moshe struck the tzur — rock — and water came forth, because there it talks of a rock referred to as a “tzur” and here as well as in the prayer for rain, it talks of a rock referred to as a sela.)

As a solution to this dilemma let me share with you a beautiful explanation given by Rabbi Meyer Shapiro, the famous Lubliner Rav z”l, for Moshe’s decision not to speak to the rock. This will enable to explain that the juxtaposition of the statute of the red cow with the waters of strife is because they are closely connected.

Had Moshe spoken to the rock, indeed Hashem would have been sanctified. Every Jew would have come to the conclusion: “If a rock, which does not speak and does not hear, performs Hashem’s will, how much more so are we required to listen to Him!”

However, Moshe thought to himself that this logic could also be used by Satan against the Jewish people when they sinned. He would come before the Heavenly Tribunal as a prosecutor, and say to Hashem “Your children, the Jewish people, are even worse than an inert rock. The rock does what You want, and Your people for whom You do so much do not perform Your will.”

Not wanting to give Satan any ammunition against the Jewish people, Moshe jeopardized his life and future, and decided not to speak to the rock.

Thus, according to the above, Moshe intentionally did not speak to the rock due to the consequences it would have for K’lal Yisrael. Hence, he literally sacrificed himself and his future due to his infinite love for K’lal Yisrael. Such a leader is indeed meritorious; and therefore, we pray “for the sake of his righteousness, grant abundant water.”

Consequently, the laws of the red cow, which according to the Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches the requirement to help a fellow Jew even when it hurts, is juxtaposed with the story of Moshe striking the rock, since (according to Rabbi Shapiro’s explanation) Moshe Rabbeinu was a living example of the moral not only to give when it hurts but to give of oneself and help others even if it hurts.

My dear Chatan and Kallah, marriage is a union between two people where each one pledges to do for the other and to give the very best of their love, faculties, and physical and emotional support. Learn the lesson derived from the laws of the red cow as it was exemplified by the greatest of men, Moshe Rabbeinu. Give and do for one another not just when you stand to benefit, but even if the opposite is true. Remember the saying “don’t just give when it hurts but even till it hurts.” Such reciprocity will bring unlimited happiness and bliss in your married life.