Chanukah was approaching, and the first-grade teacher wanted to give his class a fun assignment. He asked his students to draw a picture of something they were thankful for, and at the end, they would hang them all together in a collage. Most of the students drew Chanukah-related images, but Yaakov drew a different kind of picture. Yaakov was a different kind of boy. He came from a disadvantaged family, he struggled in school, and he had trouble making friends. As the other children played, Yaakov was likely to stay back and stand by his teacher’s side.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that machlokes is rampant.

After Korach “went down” in his altercation with Moshe and Aharon, Hashem declared that this episode would be an everlasting lesson that “there will not be [another incident] like Korach and his crowd” (Bamidbar 17:5). 

Remaining respectful of parents can lead to having a cow!

Chukas opens with the laws of the parah adumah (red heifer). Due to its paradoxical procedure, this mitzvah is considered to be the quintessential chok, a law without an understandable explanation. Because it was so rare, a true parah adumah was worth a fortune, as evidenced by the following story.

Have you ever felt on top of the world, energy pulsing through your veins, ready to take on any challenge that comes your way? Most people, at some point in their lives, have felt invincible, unstoppable, almost Godly. And yet, at other times, these very same people have felt weak, incapable, deflated, and worthless. If we take a step outside ourselves, and realize that everyone experiences this, we are likely struck by how strange and paradoxical this phenomenon is. How can we feel so capable and then so powerless, so brilliant and then so worthless, so full and then so empty, in such a short span of time [or maybe even simultaneously]? There is a fundamental idea that lies at the root of this experience, one that sheds light on the inner meaning of a strange event in Parshas Korach.

The power and purpose of intellect is an oft misunderstood concept in the Western world, making Parshas Chukas all the more important to study. Parshas Chukas introduces us to the paradigmatic chok, the mitzvah of Parah Adumah (the Red Heifer). A chok is commonly understood in contrast to a mishpat.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just find a new homeland?

Parshas Sh’lach is a good opportunity to reaffirm our special connection with Eretz Yisrael. After all, it was this core value that the 10 meraglim (spies) nefariously convinced the nation to reject. Before unleashing their terrible lies about the Land, the spies began their report with a seemingly innocuous statement. “We came to the land to which you sent us, and it also is flowing with milk and honey” (Bamidbar 13:27). This may sound like a compliment at first glance, but take note of the word “also” - what does it imply?