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Weekly Drash - Chukat

Compliments of First Fruits of Zion
reprinted by permission of FFOZ

Chukat - חוקת : “Statute”
Torah : Numbers 19:1–22:1
Haftarah : Judges 11:1–33
Gospel : John 11, 12


The Purity Paradox

Thought for the Week:

The writer of the book of Hebrews specifically mentions in Hebrews 9:13-14 the ashes of the red heifer. What is more, he attributes efficacy to them as regards cleansing the flesh. The passage compares the blood of Messiah to the ashes of the red heifer. If the ashes of the red heifer work on the outside (the flesh), how much more so does the blood of Messiah work on the inside (the conscience) from sin.



For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13–14)

In Numbers 19, God gives the laws for preparing the ashes of the red heifer. The red heifer is an unusual sacrifice which was slaughtered and burned outside of the Tabernacle. Its ashes were then collected and mixed with water. The water was sprinkled in a purification ceremony which removed ritual uncleanness engendered by contact with death.

Paradoxically, the preparation of the red heifer renders each person involved unclean. The priest who oversees the slaughter and the burning is rendered unclean. The man who ignites the fire is rendered unclean. The man who gathers the ashes together is rendered unclean. We learn in Numbers 19:21 that the one who sprinkles the water is also rendered unclean. It is one of the great paradoxes of Torah, explicable only as a decree of God.

“Who decreed this? Was it not…[God]? We have learned that all the people engaged in preparing the water of the ashes of the Red Heifer, from beginning to end, defile garments, while the Heifer itself makes garments ritually clean. The Holy One, blessed is He, says, ‘I have laid down a statute; I have issued a decree! You cannot transgress My decree.’” (Numbers Rabbah 19:1)

This is the paradox of purification. Though the priest and the men who assisted him were administering a purification ritual, they themselves were rendered somehow impure.

The paradox of purification is that the one performing the cleansing is rendered unclean. Everyone involved in the preparation of the ashes of the red heifer or in the sprinkling of the ashes and water is made unclean. So too, in order to cleanse us, the Master became unclean. In order to liberate us from death, He died. Yeshua took the curse upon Himself. He became death for us, so that we might be freed from death. Nothing is as contaminating as a dead body. Yeshua took on mortal uncleanness by virtue of His human birth. He took on human uncleanness by virtue of His healing ministry in our midst. He took on the uncleanness, the iniquity, the transgression and sin of Israel in order to cleanse us. He took on death itself—the very most contaminating source of uncleanness—in order to cleanse us.

Just as those administering purification from death, are rendered unclean, so too the Master was made unclean, even taking on the contaminating impurity of death itself, in order to cleanse us from sin and death.


Shavuah Tov!  Have a Good Week!

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