“Chukkat” means “statute” and the portion opens with the requirements of the famous red heifer, that perfect red young cow that is so sacred, nothing else will do to inaugurate the entire sacrificial infrastructure. Not surprisingly then, the requirements for finding and then preparing for such a massively important sacrifice are detailed and intricate. Other purity laws follow after which we are confronted with the sad news of Moshe’s sister Miriam dying. Ironically, instead of Moshe getting compassion from the Israelites on this occasion they immediately rise up in rebellion against him once more! In response to this latest threat, Abba YHWH assembles all of Israel and tells Moshe He will cause water to come from a rock that Moshe will strike with his staff.
The problem is of course Moshe doesn’t wait for the official command to do so and impulsively strikes the rock twice. The waters come out and Israel is refreshed, but Moshe and Aaron are punished for not being more patient. Abba YHWH tells them plainly that neither of them will enter into the Promised Land. After these events, the Israelites ask permission to pass through the lands of their Edomite cousins, but their king refuses. This time though, Abba YHWH does not punish the Edomites because He is primarily incensed with Israel, so He simply orders them around Edom to a place called Mount Hor. It is there that Abba YHWH exacts the first part of His punishment against Moshe and Aaron, by having Aaron die on that mountain. The final full chapter (21) ends as the first one in this portion did. Israel asks for deliverance—this time from the Canaanites. Abba YHWH delivers and then Israel complains again, resulting in punishment. Are we learning yet?