שביבי אש
לסדר חקת

זֹאת חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה

This is the statute of the law (Numbers 19:2)

Rashi comments: Because Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel, saying, "What is this command and what reason is there for it?" the Scripture therefore writes the term "חקה" (statute) about it, implying: it is an enactment from before Me, you have no right to think critically about it (להרהר אחריה).

Now one may ask, why do they taunt us only concerning the commandment of the red heifer? Are there not many other statutes besides this one? It is also difficult to understand why Rashi says you have no right to think critically about it (להרהר אחריה). What transgression would one commit if one did think critically about it?

And it appears to our master that an explanation can be deduced from the fact that the red heifer was, as we know, instituted to atone for the sin of the calf. (See what we have written concerning this in פרשת קרח.) So when Korah saw the chapter concerning the red heifer, he thought that as a result of the red heifer the sin of the calf would be completely forgiven and that the ultimate redemption (קץ הימין) about which it is said (Isaiah 25:8) "He will swallow up death forever" (בלע המות לנצח) would be attained. The Eternal will then save Israel forever, and bring eternal joy upon them. This implies that whoever can find "the words of delight" (דברי חפץ) by gaining an understanding of the commandment of the red heifer will also comprehend "the final wonders" (קץ הפלאות), because they are mutually interdependent. However, since the final wonders are a secret hidden from the sight of every living creature, and in the Talmud the Sages said "woe unto those who attempt to calculate the end of days," the Eternal closed up the commandment of the red heifer and allowed no one to think critically about it (l'harheir ahareha) in order to understand its essence. That is why Satan and the nations of the world taunt Israel by saying to them "what is the sense of this commandment?" By this they mean to say "when will saviors come up on Zion?" In this way they breathe forth lies (יפיחו על ישראל כזבים) about Israel - that their hope from the Eternal has been disappointed and "there is no salvation for him in G-d" (ואין לו ישועתה באלהים סלה), which is a form of verbal oppression. However, shall we not wait for him every day? And He will hasten it in its time.

יֵאָסֵף אַהֲרֹן אֶל עַמָּיו כִּי לֹא יָבֹא אֶל הָאָרֶץ וכו' קַח אֶת-אַהֲרֹן

Aaron shall be gathered unto his people; for he shall not enter into the land . . . Take Aaron . . . (Numbers 20:24-25)

In the Midrash it is written: From here we know that the Holy One Blessed Be He informs the righteous of their death in order that they may bequeath their crowns to their children.

And our master explained this according to the Midrash concerning the verse (Ecclesiastes 8:8): "neither has he authority over the day of death" (ואין שלטון ביום המות). And according to the Midrash that when one approaches the day of death he is brought down from his position of honor. Our master brought numerous proofs that these two Midrashim are related, and one of them is from Moses who, at first, had two trumpets that were sounded when all the congregation were to be assembled before him. But at the end of his life, the Scripture writes about him (Deuteronomy 31:1) "And Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel" (וַיֵּלֶךְ, מֹשֶׁה; וַיְדַבֵּר אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה, אֶל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵל), for he had to go to them for he had no power on the day of his death.

But one may ask: Do the righteous not go from strength to strength, higher and higher, so do they not, at the end of their days, reach their pinnacle and their fulfillment? For we find in the words of the Midrash on the verse (Psalms 37:18): "the Lord knows the days of the blameless" ( יודע ה' ימי תמימים): As they are whole (תמימים), so their years are whole (תמימים) (Genesis Rabbah, 58:1)

If that is so, why should the honor of the righteous be diminished in the eyes of the people? However the Master of all that happens does this so that the children or the students of the righteous may later be able to occupy their position. For the children or students are still young and have not reached the level of their parents. And if the people were to recognize the great distance between the successor and his father or his teacher, they would not submit to the authority of the successor and would belittle him by saying: "how can this one save us, and what is he compared to his father or to his teacher?" The Eternal therefore withdraws the honor and the glory from the father before his death so that his son can easily occupy his position.

This is why the Scripture writes "may Aaron be gathered" to indicate that his honor and glory will be gathered "to his people," that is, before the people. Why? Because "he shall not come into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel." Instead "strip him of his garments and bring them upon Elazar his son," because Elazar his son will become the priest in his place. Thus, the honor of Aaron must be gathered before his death, so that the people will not understand how much greater the power of the father is than that of the son.

This is why the Midrash properly deduces From here we learn that the Holy One Blessed Be He informs the righteous of their death. For the souls of the righteous know well that their end is coming, because they feel that they are ascending ever higher. Nevertheless, they see that in the eyes of the people their honor is diminished. And this is done so that their sons may inherit their crowns.  ודו"ק כי הוא מתוק מדבש.