Chukkat 5778 – The Mexican Earthquake
Last Sunday there was a minor earthquake in Mexico. Remarkably, seismologists attributed this tremor not to tectonic plates shifting, but to mass dancing and jubilant celebrations by Mexico football fans, whose national team had just scored a goal at the World Cup. An artificial earthquake - with identical sensations.
Anyone who has ever been to a live concert, or sporting spectacle, knows that in moments of ecstatic joy the noise can be deafening and the stadium often feels like it's shaking. It feels like a space rocket has just lifted off. There are many contributing factors for this, including the chanting, screaming and dancing of the spectators.
The impact of unforeseen consequences carries much weight in Jewish literature. Our actions really do make a difference.
It is best illustrated using the famous "butterfly effect" - the beating of a butterfly's wing in one place may cause a storm elsewhere. The idea that even tiny, almost insignificant, actions create momentums and build waves. That good generates more good, while the opposite is also true.
This explains the name of our Sidrah - Chukkat. Chukah means mysterious, enigmatic, unexplainable. It is Divine law which has no logic or reason. Like the Mitzvah of the Red Heifer, with which our Sidrah opens, the ashes of which, combined with other ingredients, purifies the impure. How? What is purity anyway? Yet, we adhere to the Mitzvah since it comes from G-d. We may not appreciate its impact, but somewhere out there in the spiritual cosmos it is bringing healing, calm and perfection.
If dancing and jumping in Mexico can create chaos and motion of a tremendous magnitude, imagine what performing a Mitzvah accomplishes. Every prayer, every Amen, every candle lit in honour of Shabbat, every Tefillin, every word of Torah study is creating something extraordinary.
In its own unseen, unfelt and silent way, each Mitzvah is maintaining the very cosmos, keeping it in order, and bringing enormous beauty and purity into it.
RABBI MENDEL LEW