This year (2023) is a double parsha. Chukat AND Balak.
The parsha starts out with God giving Moses very exact instructions about how they should find a red cow that has never been used to haul things (“has not yielded to a yoke”) and should sacrifice it. Everybody involved, from the priest to the guy who gathers up the ashes, is then to be considered impure (or tamei in Hebrew) until he washes himself and his clothes and waits till sunset. (Yes, they were all men.)
And, on the subject of impurity, God next gives rules about touching a dead person. Once again, the person who does so is made impure by his or her contact with the dead person. This time it’s for seven days. The impure person has to be sprinkled with hyssop (a flower.) Then he or she has to scrub all their clothing. If that person doesn’t do that, they are cut off from the community!
Now we come to the famous story of Moses hitting the rock.
Miriam the water bringer dies, and the Children of Israel have no water. Of course, they complain. “Why did you make us go up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place?”
Moses and Aaron go to God who tells them to speak to a big boulder, until it gives water.
Moses doesn’t do that. Instead, he smacks that boulder.
God goes tsk tsk: “Because you did not have trust in me you (Moses and Aaron) will not bring the Children of Israel into the land I am giving them!”
Poor Moses and Aaron.
The parsha ends with Moses sending messengers to the king of Edom, asking if the Children of Israel can pass through the land of Edom. “We won’t cross through fields or orchards. We won’t drink your water. We’ll just stay on the King’s Road.”
But the King says no. “You shall not cross!”
So they went around.
Food for Thought
Why do you think the King of Edom refuse to let them cross through his land?