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Chukas: The Greatest Wisdom

Written by Rabbi Moshe Kormornick

This is the statute of the Torah, which Hashem has commanded… (19:2)

Specifically in regards to Hashem’s incomprehensible statutes, the Torah tells us that the nations of the world will praise the wisdom of the Jewish People for keeping them.[1] This seems strange; if the statutes are by definition impossible to understand, and we only keep them because we consider it a commandment from Hashem which one does not have the right to question,[2] then why are we specifically receiving praise for our “wisdom” by keeping them? How is following a rule that we do not understand considered the quintessential example of the Jewish People’s wisdom?

Let us answer with a parable: There are three patients who require medicine for their life-threatening illness; two fools and one wise-man. The first fool says to the doctor, “I refuse to take this medicine until I understand precisely how it was made and how it works.” Since his medical knowledge is almost non-existent and he does not have the tools to comprehend the science behind the medicine, this man refuses to take the remedy and soon dies. The second fool is happy to take the medicine but does not even inquire whether the person offering the medicine is a doctor. Since someone referred to him as “doctor,” reasons the man, whatever he gives me, I’ll take. If this “doctor” is a fraud then his medicine is also worthless. The wise-man, however, ascertains with certainty that this man is a qualified and knowledgeable doctor, and only then agrees to take the medicine despite not knowing anything about it. After all, the doctor has all of the knowledge necessary to create and serve the medicine and trusting him is the wise thing to do.

The same is true with the concept of statutes. Although they are incomprehensible, once we have ascertained that Hashem — the Creator of everything— has given them, and we know with certainty that He understands everything to the minutest detail, then it is specifically with “wisdom” that we listen to and follow whatever He says to do. As such, it is most appropriate that the Jewish People receive praise for their wisdom for following these incomprehensible statutes, for our decision is not based on the statute itself, but on the One commanding it.



[1] Devarim 4:6, with Rashi.

[2] Rashi.

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