Chukas: Remaining Normal
My six-year old wanted to go to art lessons that somebody was offering privately. We were a bit skeptical that he would be able to sit and concentrate for an hour, but, we said we could try it out. Surprisingly, he enjoyed it very much and was focused the entire time. The first week, he came home with a beautiful chicken he drew, by looking and copying. The second week, fish, the third, a peacock.
Two weeks ago on Shabbos night, my wife visited a neighbor while the boys and I went to shul. The neighbor, who has very artistic talents and taste made mention to my wife on what a wonderful artist my son has become. A bit confused, my wife thanked her and asked her how she knew. It turns out her son, who's in the same kindergarten and shares his mother's tastes, saw another chicken my son was working on and offered to buy it from him for 10 agarot.
The mother was so impressed with the work, she is going to get it framed.
A famous artist at the age of six. Not bad!
A chok is a law that has no logical explanation for it. That is exactly why the law of Parah Adumah (the burning of the Red Heifer) is called a chok. For some reason, the burning of this cow and the sprinkling of its ashes purifies those who have been rendered impure. All other laws are understandable on some level. For many of those laws, you need to be very well learned and on a high spiritual level to understand. For others, you don't need to be in order to understand.
On one level though, most of the Torah is a chok. The entire concept of Hashem giving us the Torah is something we cannot touch or sense or experience. Of course, we're not like the Christians where we simply need to "have faith and believe." We have proofs and a very clear-cut tradition handed down, unchanged for thousands of years. But still, following the Torah in today's world seems to be … not logical, according to the standards of the time.
Of course, what are the standards of the time? I'm hearing things from America which are truly scary. Hospitals having policies not to tell parents whether a son or a daughter was born to them, since "who are we to determine the gender of the child"? Boys can use girls' locker rooms. Boys can be girls, girls can be boys. If you have white skin, you are a natural racist. If you have black skin, you have been persecuted no matter if you have or not. Rioters are called protestors. All men are sexist pigs. All women are victims of the patriarchy. Terrorist organizations that openly admit to targeting civilians are given a free pass and free money to rebuild their arsenal. What's wrong is right and what's right is wrong.
The list goes on.
The Moshgiach from my yeshiva once likened today's situation to a group of people who were kicked out of their homes. As they were walking in the countryside, they came to an orange orchard and were delighted at their find. However, on the entrance was a sign that said, "We were here before you. Many of us ate the oranges and ended up going crazy. Don't make the same mistake!" Of course, an argument ensued on what to do. Many decided they had nothing to lose; they were hungry. So, they ate. And went crazy. Then more people gave in, and they too went crazy. Finally, there was one person left. What should he do? He sees reality for what it is. But, he's alone and he's suffering, while everybody else seems to be happy and oblivious to the fact that they are crazy! Can you truly blame him for wanting to give up? After all, what difference does it make anymore if he goes crazy or not, since crazy is the new normal!
This is where we are holding. We have a world full of craziness. You literally don't know what is considered right and what is considered wrong!
A few years ago at work, I got a reprimand for joking that "I'm a man, it's in my DNA to like pizza." Because, and I didn't know this, DNA has no correlation to gender (anymore), and I need to be more sensitive to other workers. It took me several days of speaking to other employees to figure out what exactly I did wrong! I had no idea what I could have said that was possibly insulting.
The Moshgiach continued and said that we have a tradition that the period before the coming of Moshiach will be like this. He said that really Hashem wanted us, the Jewish people, to fix ourselves, and soar to the spiritual heights, in order to bring Moshiach. It seems that we could not to that. So instead, he did the opposite. He sunk the world down to levels never seen before. And for us? All we need to do is hang on to where we are at and not sink down with it. In THAT merit will Moshiach come.
If you keep Torah and mitzvos in today's world you're looked at like a strange person. If you dress and act in the opposite gender, you're looked at as normal. People, Jews and non-Jews, will ask you why you feel the need to keep to such barbaric laws. And you cannot logically explain it to them. Even if you could do so, they would most likely be unable to understand. In the past you could, but today? I doubt it. It's a chok. It's unexplainable to the outside world. But, when Hashem is looking down on this world and seeing what the human race is doing to it, and he sees a Jew doing mitzvos here and a Jew doing mitzvos there, no matter how big or small, it makes an impression on Him and it serves as a reminder that there ARE people who want to remain normal, no matter how turbulent the world around them becomes.
There's a famous "story" of a king who had a wonderful garden which he would use every day to calm his nerves. Once, he had to leave his garden for a while, and while he was gone, those in charge were negligent. At that point, the king, now disturbed by his garden, decided to raze the entire thing and start anew. As he was looking over the remains, he found one rose, unaffected by the destruction. At that point, the king said, "For the sake of this rose, I will keep and repair the garden."
Hashem created a beautiful world for us to live in. Unfortunately, we are destroying it with madness. But when he looks and sees a rose here and a rose there, that rose, despite what the world thinks, is really saving them.