This week’s parsha is Chukat, חֻקַּת, translated as “decree” and covering Numbers 19:1-21:1.
In Chukat, Moses and Aaron explain the ritual of the red heifer (פָרָה אֲדֻמָּה, parah adumah) a gory sacrifice in which the ashes of the burnt heifer were mixed with assorted herbs to make water of “lustration”. What is water of lustration you may ask? Well, it is a liquid used to cleanse and remove the uncleanliness associated with touching a corpse.
Chukat also details the death of Miriam and her burial in the city of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin, as well as the tale of Moses getting water from a rock (because the wells dried up when his sister died). Of, and there is the issue of the plague of burning snakes, which is most unpleasant for the Israelites to deal with.
There are no negative commandments in Chukat, although there is disagreement as to how many positive commandments it contains (Maimonides found one, the Sefer ha-Chinuch notes three).
Translation via JTS:http://www.jtsa.edu/prebuilt/ParashahArchives/jpstext/hukkat.shtml
Sources of commentary:
Rabbi Ted Falcon:http://www.rabbitedfalcon.com/weekly-focus/
Animated at G-dcast:http://www.g-dcast.com/chukat
Funding for Whidbey Island Jewish Community was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Special Initiatives Fund of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle.