Chukas: Prepare Yourself…

“He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean…” (Numbers 19:12)

This verse appears in the section of the Torah regarding the laws of cleansing oneself from the impurity imparted through contact with the dead. However, the deeper commentaries reveal another layer of meaning in this text.

“A thousand years are like a day in the eyes of God” (paraphrase of Psalm 90:4). Our Sages teach that each of the Seven Days of Creation represents a thousand years of history. There will be six millennia of human history in this physical world, followed by a “Sabbath day,” an elevation to a spiritual realm in which the righteous bask in the glory of the Creator and rejoice in His splendor, while the wicked suffer in humiliation at their exposure to that very same glory which they willingly chose not to revere during their time in the physical realm.

Following this paradigm, the “third day,” that is, the third millennium of human history, contains the event of the giving of the Torah to Israel at Mount Sinai. Therefore, on a deeper level, the above verse means that one shall purify oneself through study and fulfillment of the Torah, which was given on the third day. Then, on the “seventh day,” the day that is completely spiritual, “he shall be clean,” that is, one shall be among the righteous who rejoice eternally in God’s glory in the World to Come.

May we merit to purify ourselves in this world, and rejoice with the Torah during our lifetime, both in this world as well as in the next.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas Chukas

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4 thoughts on “Chukas: Prepare Yourself…

    1. Here’s the Hebrew: “הוּא יִתְחַטָּא-בוֹ בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי–יִטְהָר; וְאִם-לֹא יִתְחַטָּא בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי, וּבַיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי–לֹא יִטְהָר.”

      You can see there are two parts to the verse, the first in the positive and the second in the negative. Without punctuation, it might be translated like this: “He shall purify himself with it on the third day and on the seventh day he shall be clean and if he will not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day he shall not be clean.” The way it is punctuated in the Hebrew text above (which I copied and pasted from http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0419.htm), it reads: “He shall purify himself with it on the third day and on the seventh day — he shall be clean; and if he shall not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day — he shall not be clean.” So the meaning changes depending where the punctuation is inserted. Punctuated in this way, which, by the way, is the correct “plain meaning,” the verse is kind of an “if, then” statement. It is as though it says: “IF he shall purify himself with it on the third day and on the seventh day, THEN he shall be clean; but if he shall not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, THEN he shall not be clean.” However, I punctuated it differently in my blog post to show how some commentaries read a hidden meaning into the passage.

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  1. Then my question is: What is his state on the 4th, 5th, and 6th days, assuming that he purified himself on the 3rd day? Surely he must be either clean or unclean on those days. Or, does his state on those days depend upon what he WILL do on the 7th day (future)? Or, to employ the reasoning of Quantum Physics, would he simply be in a “probability state” on the middle days if we have no means of observing his situation?

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    1. The simple understanding seems to be that he is not purified until the night following the 7th day. The process is (more or less) as follows: STEP 1: On the 3rd day of his impurity, he is sprinkled with the water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer. STEP 2: On the 7th day, he is again sprinkled in this fashion. STEP 3: Also on the 7th day, he immerses in a mikveh (ritualarium). THEN, with nightfall, he is cleansed of his impurity. So each stage is mandatory and contributory toward his purification, which only takes place after the passage of seven days.

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