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The Systems of the Jewish Year

It Doesn’t Make Sense

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

When we pray, we are supposed to consider ourselves and visualize that we are standing directly in front of G-d. How can this be? G-d has no image that we can conceive of. As soon as we have any visual association of G-d, we’ve already gone wrong.  Whether you’re thinking of G-d as some kind of energy or the ‘man with a white beard’ type of image - it’s all wrong. We can’t perceive G-d at all.

So what exactly is it that we’re not only meant to be doing, but which simple ordinary people seem to be doing successfully for thousands of years, and continue to do so on a daily basis?

The answer is, that although we are unable to conceive G-d cognitively when we pray, we pray with our heart; and our hearts can conceive of G-d.

The same is true in every relationship. If we love someone with our heart it is able to surpass that which our minds are incapable of.

Chazal often question why one particular Parsha in the Torah is placed following another, apparently unrelated in content. Rashi at the beginning of many sections explains the envious connections between sections of the Torah.

In that vein, we can ask why it is that Parshas Korach is juxtaposed to Parshas Chukas, since there seems to be no evident connection between Korach and the statutes of the Torah?

I once heard a shiur by Rav Yosef Ber Soloveitchik A.H. in which he termed Korach as leading the ‘the common sense rebellion’. He pointed out that the claims of Korach seem perfectly reasonable and in line with logical common sense. Korach claimed that if a garment requires only one thread of techeiles in each corner, then a garment made entirely of techeiles should surely be exempt from this requirement. He also claimed that if a single mezuza is all that needed on a doorpost then a house full of Torah scrolls must surely be exempt from adding this small extra piece of parchment.

It’s difficult to fault this on logical grounds. Yet Korach was rebelling against God, Moshe, and the Torah. Where did he go wrong?

The key is understanding relationships.  A relationship is not based on intellectual comprehension alone. A relationship must be based on the workings of the heart, not only the brain. That’s true for a friendship, a marriage and for our relationship with G-d.

Korach claimed that if you can’t comprehend it, if doesn’t fully make sense to your brain, then it can’t be true. Torah, which has apparently illogical elements, can not be ultimately true, and so Moshe must have falsified it.

Parshas Chukas counters this by emphasizing that the apparently illogical is not just an aspect of some mitzvos, it is so central to Torah that it is called ‘zos chukas haTorah’.

The understanding of the mind is secondary to the formation of a relationship with G-d, which is about the heart. This is what Korach didn’t grasp.

The Kotzker Rebbe is reported to have heard the gabbai of a shul complain that they had no baalei tefilla in the synagogue since no one in the Synagogue had a good voice. The Kotzker called over the Gabbai and instructed him that although a good voice is certainly a noble quality for a Chazzan; that is secondary to the main attraction which is a good heart.

Tefilla, he said, is avoda she’b’lev, it’s about the heart, about a relationship with G-d. This is true of all the Mitzvos of Hashem. Love is to do something which your heart understands. The sense in it is secondary.

Zos Chukas HaTorah.

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