Category Archives: Parshas Chukas

Parshas Chukas: Be Happy With What You Have While You Have It!

Parshas Chukas

Be Happy With What You Have While You Have It!


“All the Jewish People arrived at the wilderness of Tzin…. Miriam died there and was buried there…” (Bamidbar 20: 1,2)


Reuven and Sara Shapiro were brother and sister.  Reuven was 11 years old and Sara was 9. Early one morning they were awakened by the sound of their doorbell ringing. They ran to their bedroom window to see who was at the door. A truck driver looked up and told them that he had a delivery for them. Reuven and Sara noticed that his truck had huge pictures of cookies and doughnuts on it. They ran down and opened the door. [When I tell this story at JEP Shabbatons, I always warn the children that in real life, they should never open their door for a stranger]. The driver returned to his truck and brought in boxes and boxes, which he put down in the living room. Reuven and Sara started opening the boxes. They could not believe what they were looking at. There were doughnuts of every flavor along with all varieties of cookies, cakes, and pies. They called all their friends to join them in eating these yummy desserts. They shared it throughout the day. Early the next morning, they were awakened by the sound of a doorbell ringing. They ran to their bedroom window to see who was at the door. A truck driver looked up and told them that he had a delivery for them. Reuven and Sara noticed that his truck had huge pictures of games and electronics. The driver brought in boxes and boxes, which he put down in the living room. Reuven & Sara opened boxes full of the latest board and electronic games. They called all their friends to play with all the games.  Meanwhile, they finished eating the delicious cakes from the day before. The next morning, the same thing happened.  This time the truck driver delivered different flavors of ice cream together with frozen desserts. The routine repeated itself for two weeks. Each day, Reuven and Sara excitedly opened their front door. Two weeks later, Reuven had some friends sleeping over at his house. Early the next morning, the doorbell starting ringing. Reuven & Sara heard it and turned over in bed. Reuven’s friends went to the window and saw the truck outside. When they told Reuven, he yawned and told them to have the driver put the boxes in the living room.

What happened? Why weren’t Reuven & Sara excited about the delivery this time? The answer is that they were already used to it coming.  They expected it. Therefore, it was no longer special and exciting. Hashem delivers the greatest gift to us every single morning. Hashem gives us life, by returning our neshama, our soul daily. We should be excited beyond belief, every morning.  We should thank Hashem with excitement, each time.  But many of us do not. Why? We are used to it.  We expect it. It is not new to us, so the excitement has worn off.

The Jewish People, in the desert, had their needs miraculously taken care of. For forty years they received water daily, via a well that traveled with them. Three million people and their animals had their needs taken care of. Yet, not once in those 40 years does the Torah record that they showed appreciation for the miraculous well (Kli Yakar Bamidbar 21:17).

Furthermore, the Torah tells us (Bamidbar20:1) that Moshe’s sister, Miriam died. The very next pasuk says that the Jewish People no longer had water. Rashi connects these 2 psukim, teaching us that the well which supplied water for these 40 years was in the merit of Miriam.  When Miriam died, the well no longer provided the Jewish People with water. The Kli Yakar asks why the well stopped supplying water. He answers that it was as a punishment for the Jews’ lack of appreciation for Miriam. They did not fully appreciate her for the great person that she was and for the great merit that she had earned. Apparently, the Kli Yakar says, the Jews did not eulogize Miriam properly and her memory was quickly forgotten. [After Moshe and Aharon died, it says that the Jewish People cried. It does not say that after Miriam’s death.] As a result, the water stopped flowing. Then the Jewish People realized Miriam’s greatness and that they had received this miraculous source of water only in her merit.

When things are going well, we may tend to take these blessings for granted. We may not fully appreciate our good fortune, as we come to expect it. We may not thank Hashem, as we should, for each kindness that He bestows upon us. Sometimes, only after the blessing is taken away, do we fully appreciate it, retroactively. This trait of not fully appreciating what we have also applies to our relationships with people. Sometimes we do not fully appreciate our loved ones until they are no longer with us.


Be happy with what you have while you still have it! Do not wait until it is gone to appreciate it. Constantly thinking about all the good that Hashem does for you will help you to value it and not take it for granted. Also, do likewise and appreciate your loved ones while they are still with you.


Parshas Chukas: Who Would Have Thought The Broken Bottle Could Be So Powerful?!

Parshas Chukas

Who Would Have Thought The Broken Bottle Could Be So Powerful?!

“This is the law [regarding] a person [אָדָם] who dies in a tent; anyone who enters the tent and everything that is in the tent shall be unclean for seven days.” (Bamidbar 19:14)

More than 100 years ago, a poverty-stricken rabbi from Jerusalem went to Italy to raise funds for his family. After his boat docked on a Friday morning, he started walking, hoping he would find a Jewish neighborhood. A horse-drawn carriage drew alongside him and stopped. It turned out that the rider in the wagon was a very wealthy Jew. He greeted the rabbi warmly and invited him to his home for Shabbos. At the Shabbos seudah, the rabbi was flabbergasted by his host’s enormous wealth. Gazing at the breakfront which was full of crystal, silver, and gold, the rabbi noticed a broken glass flask. It was so out of place that the rabbi asked why the flask was placed there. The wealthy man then told his story. He had grown up in Amsterdam. When he was a teenager, his grandfather, who was in failing health, had asked him to come to Italy to help in his store. Soon after, his grandfather died. He loved the business and became very successful and very wealthy. He became so involved in his business that, little by little, he slid away from Judaism. One day, he was walking and heard a Jewish child scream. The child couldn’t stop crying and repeating, “What will I tell my father?”  Apparently, the little boy was very poor. His father had saved a few coins to purchase a jar of olive oil for the Chanukah menorah. The child made the purchase but not bring it home right away. In the interim, the jar fell and broke, and the olive oil spilled out. The wealthy man took the little boy back to the store and bought him a new jar of olive oil. Afterwards, he felt haunted by the boy’s words, “What will I tell my father?” He thought to himself, what would he tell his Father in heaven after 120 years. He had drifted so far from Judaism, what could he say to Hashem?  Thereupon, he gathered up the broken glass of the flask and brought it home. That night, to the surprise of his family, he lit a Chanukah candle. One thing led to another, and he eventually he became an observant Jew, teaching his family along the way. After hearing the story, the rabbi understood why that broken flask had a position of prominence in the breakfront. It was instrumental in re-igniting the pintele yid, the spark that is in every Jewish soul. (Echoes of the Maggid by Rabbi Paysach Krohn)

In the time of the prophet Yirmiyahu, the Jewish People served idols. Hashem asked Yirmiyahu to exhort the Jews to repent (Yirmiyahu 2:2-3). Rashi and Radak say that Hashem desired to shower the Jews with compassion because Hashem remembered the kindness of their forefathers, in following Hashem into the barren desert after leaving Egypt. The Jews showed their faith in Hashem by following Moshe and Aharon into a desert without provisions.

Although the Jews were serving idols, they were still called “holy to Hashem” (Yirmiyahu 2:3). Rashi says that the Jews are considered holy like Terumah, the first fruits of Hashem’s harvest. Radak adds that the Jewish People are compared to the first of the harvest before the Omer, which is forbidden to eat. Whoever eats it is liable. Even when Jews sin and are punished for their sins, the nations who harm them are punished because they are harming Hashem’s “first fruits”.

The Yalkut Shimoni (Yirmiyahu, 265) adds that even during Yirmiyahu’s time, when the Jews were serving idols, Hashem, nonetheless, called them, “בְּנִי”, “my son”.

In the Midrash Shocher Tov (Tehillim 14:4) we see that even when we are at our low point, we are considered holy to Hashem. During the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, when the Babylonians ate the holy meat that was left from our korbanos and ate the lechem hapanim, the 12 loaves of holy bread, the Jews were at a very low point. Yet, they were still called “holy to Hashem”.

It says in this week’s parsha, “When a person dies in a tent, whoever enters the tent and whoever is in the tent shall be impure for seven days.” (Bamidbar19-14)

The Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh zt”l quotes the Talmud (Bava Metzia 114A). The rabbis taught that the description,”אָדָם ”, “a person” [who dies in a tent] only applies to Jews. The Torah, therefore, teaches that only the dead bodies of Jews are capable of conferring ritual impurity on people who are under the same roof; the dead bodies of Gentiles are not able to have that effect on anyone under the same roof with them. What is the reason for that? Only people who have been given the Torah have absorbed the kind of sanctity during their lifetime which attracts the spiritually negative influences, to their remains.

Even when a Jew sins, he is stilled beloved by Hashem as a child is to his father. He has inherited within him, genetically, a faith in Hashem, as his forefathers had when they followed Hashem into the desert without knowing how they would obtain food. Furthermore, because each Jew received the Torah at Har Sinai, each Jew is a holy person.

We must view every single Jew with love, as each Jew is holy and special to Hashem!


Parshas Chukas: One Marshmallow or Two?

Parshas Chukas

One Marshmallow or Two?


“Therefore, those who speak in parables shall say,”Come to Cheshbon.” (Bamidbar 21:27)

In the 1960s, Walter Mischel, a professor at a Stanford University conducted an important psychological study. He tested hundreds of children, most of them between the ages of 4 and 5 years old.  It was dubbed “The Marshmallow Experiment”. Each child was brought into a private room and placed on a chair. A marshmallow was placed on the table in front of him. The researcher told the child that he was going to leave the room. If the child would not eat the marshmallow, then the child would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child decided to eat the first one before the researcher came back, then he would not get a second marshmallow. In the study, many children eventually gave in to temptation. A few of the children were able to wait the entire time. The researchers conducted follow up studies and tracked each child’s progress. The children who were willing to delay gratification and waited to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures. The researchers followed each child for more than 40 years and again, the group who waited patiently for the second marshmallow succeeded in each capacity that they measured. This proved that the ability to delay gratification was critical for success in life. (Behavioral Psychology Willpower by James Clear)

The Torah says, “Therefore, those who speak in parables shall say,”Come to Cheshbon” (Bamidbar 21:27). The Talmud (Bava Basra 78B) interprets the verses homiletically. “Hamoshlim” those who speak in parables, those people who rule over their evil inclination will say, “Come to Cheshbon”. Come and let us calculate the account [cḥeshbono] of the world. Let us look at the financial loss incurred by the fulfillment of a mitzvah in contrast to its reward. Let us also look at the reward for committing a transgression, i.e., the pleasure and gain received, in contrast to the loss that it entails.

The same idea is quoted in Pirkei Avos (2:1). Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi says, “…Calculate the cost of a mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against its cost.” Rabbeinu Yona and Rashi both explain that if you chose to do a mitzvah and incurred a financial loss because of that, do not be upset. Your reward in Olam Haba will be thousands of times greater than your loss was. The reverse is also true. Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi continues, “Consider the reward of a sin against its cost.”  Rashi explains “the reward of a sin” refers to the enjoyment that you may receive by sinning. Consider the pleasure that you receive which will cost you dearly in Olam Haba. Is it worth it? The Rabbeinu Yona says, if you feel that by sinning you will receive a large financial gain or much pleasure, stop and think. The punishment that you will receive will be greater than your gain. Is the result worth the temporary and fleeting pleasure that you would have?

The Talmud tells us (Succah 52A) that Rabbi Yehuda teaches that in the time of Mashiach, Hashem will slaughter the yetzer hara, the evil inclination in the presence of the righteous and in the presence of the wicked. To the righteous the evil inclination will appear insurmountable, as a high mountain. To the wicked it will appear as a mere strand of hair. “The righteous will cry and say, ‘How were we able to overcome so high a mountain?’ The wicked will cry and say, ’How were we unable to overcome this strand of hair?’”

The Bais HaLevi (as quoted in The Pirkei Avos Treasury by Rabbi Moshe Lieber) says that the Talmud teaches us the psychology of sin. “The allure of sin lies in the promise of thrill. Before one tastes evil, it seems to be enjoyable and exciting. Once experienced, it loses its glamour.”  The righteous did not experience sin. Thus, the allure was great. The righteous will be surprised at how they were able to overcome such a strong temptation. The wicked already tasted sin. After the momentary pleasure that they felt, they felt its emptiness and hollowness. It was no longer a big deal and no longer tempting. At that moment, it would not be difficult for them to say no, to their yetzer hara. “It was unfulfilling and as conquerable as a strand of hair.”

We are all accountants by profession. We must constantly calculate our actions. Will they increase the debit side of the ledger or the credit side? Is a moment of pleasure worth the consequences? Is a loss incurred, to perform a mitzvah, worth a reward, thousands greater than our loss?

We must make these decisions constantly, every moment of the day and every day of our lives. May Hashem give us the strength to make the correct decisions!