Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
The easiest thing is to mock and to minimize. If something sounds ancient and untimely and we do not grasp it with our limited intelligence within a second and a half, it must surely be irrelevant and can even become wonderful material for cynical jokes about our heritage. Parashat Chukat that we read this Shabbat opens with the words “This is the Torah’s decree” and describes a subject that is considered a mystery until today – the red cow. Generations of philosophers and wise men have examined questions such as: Are there reasons for every mitzvah? Are there hidden reasons besides the revealed ones? Are we obligated to understand everything?
Here is a thought from the Rambam, one of the greatest thinkers of all the generations, regarding this profound matter: “It is appropriate for a person to meditate on the judgments of the holy Torah and know their ultimate purpose according to his capacity. If he cannot find a reason or a motivating rationale for a practice, he should not take it lightly… One’s thoughts concerning it should not be like his thoughts concerning ordinary matters.” On the one hand, we should strive to learn and understand. On the other, there will always be hidden meanings. Even if what we read or hear from the Torah is not fashionable, even if we do not completely understand – we should be careful about minimizing or taking it lightly.