Parshah

Chukas: Maturing With Age

Sometimes we outgrow our mitzvos. While there is a wide range of opinions regarding the exact sin of...

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What’s the first thing you would do after surviving an apocalyptic event?

While you ponder that, consider that Noach’s first act was to offer korbanos (sacrifices) to Hashem. How did Noach know to do this? Rashi (8:20) explains that Noach inferred this from the fact that Hashem had commanded him to take seven of certain animals, instead of the minimum two needed to keep the species alive. “If Hashem wants me to have a surplus of animals,” Noach concluded, “it must be so that I can use the extra ones productively for avodas Hashem.”

Imagine waking up in a hospital bed with amnesia; you haven’t the foggiest clue who you are. You try to recall your most recent memories and how you may have gotten here, but you can’t seem to remember. After a few seconds, you come to realize that you truly have no idea who you are. Just then, a group of men enter the room and deliver some shocking news. They tell you that you are the leader of the country, and that once you’re feeling better, there are some important issues for you to deal with. How would you feel? You’d probably hold your head up high, realizing that you are someone important. But what if instead of addressing you as a world leader, those same people informed you that you were the hospital janitor; instead of awaiting your return to the Oval Office, they’re awaiting your return to the bathrooms on the second floor. How would you feel then? What would you think of yourself?

It came out of nowhere. A flood of emotions suddenly hit Benny. Before he knew what was happening, there were tears streaming down his face. He immediately pulled over and tried to regain his composure. Strangely enough, he had no idea why he was crying. He sat there for a few minutes before it suddenly hit him, hard.

First things first.

Parshas B’reishis is all about the beginnings: First creation, first light, first day, first person, first commandment, and of course, first sin. After blessing mankind to be fruitful, Hashem gives Adam his first official mitzvah. Yes, it has to do with trees and fruit, but it’s not what you think.

As we approach Yom Kippur, we recognize that it is unquestionably one of the most important days of the year. And yet, in many ways, it is a mystery. While one might assumedly categorize it as a day of suffering and sadness, Chazal refer to Yom Kippur as a spiritually uplifting day of atonement and rebirth (Taanis 4:8). There is even an element of the day that is associated with the happiness of Purim (Yom K’-Purim, a day like Purim). At the same time, though, it is a fast day. We normally characterize fast days as times of mourning and sadness, such as Shiv’ah Asar B’Tamuz and Tish’ah B’Av. How is Yom Kippur different, and what is the nature of this day?