The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke.” — Numbers 19:1–2
The Torah portion for this week is Chukat, which means “requirement,” from Numbers 19:1–22:1, and the Haftorah is from Judges 11:1–33.
This Torah portion begins, “The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: ‘This is a requirement of the law . . .’” It is from these verses that the reading gets its name, Chukat, meaning “requirement.” However, the Jewish sages point out that this word can also mean “engrave.” In addition, what is translated as “the law” in this verse is the word “Torah” in the original Hebrew.
Torah is also the Hebrew name for the Bible or God’s Word. Putting these pieces together, we learn an entirely new meaning for these verses. The sages explain it this way: “The Lord said to Moses and Aaron: Engrave the Torah, God’s Word.” Where? On your hearts.
According to the sages, there is a big difference between writing and engraving. When a person writes with ink or pencil on a piece of paper, it is possible for the writing to be removed with an eraser or special chemicals. Therefore, the words and the paper remain two separate entities even when they are together.
Engraving is totally different. Once something is engraved, it cannot be removed. The words that are engraved become one with the item that they are chiseled into. The sages explain this should be our goal when it comes to the Word of God. We must engrave it on our hearts to the point where we are one with God’s truth.
In Deuteronomy 4:39 we read, “Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.” Acknowledging something and taking something to our hearts are two different things, and we must do both when it comes to God’s Word. So how do we go from reading something in our Bibles to fusing it with our very beings?
Many helpful strategies have been suggested over the years, such as meditating on or repeating a verse, singing the Word, and asking God for help in integrating His Word into our hearts and into our lives. But I’d like to suggest that a great way to engrave His Word is simply by living it.
Live “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Model how “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Be a shining example of someone who knows how to “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5).
When we put God’s Word into our actions, we become one with it. So engrave His Word on your heart and let His Word guide you today.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President