Hukkat: A Summary of the Parsha

God instructs Moses and Aaron regarding the red heifer; Miriam dies; Moses hits a rock to bring forth water rather than speaking to it; Aaron dies.

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They journeyed forth until they came to Mount Hor. God said to Moses and Aaron, 'Because Aaron defied My word at the waters of contention at Kadesh, Aaron shall not enter the Land that I have given to the children of Israel. Aaron and his son, Eleazar, shall be brought up to Mount Hor. There, Aaron shall be divested of his garments and his son dressed in his priestly garments. There, Aaron shall die.' And it happened just as God commanded.

When Moshe and Eleazar descended from the Mount Hor, the entire community saw that Aaron was dead and the entire house of Israel wept for Aaron for 30 days.

After the Canaanite king heard the Israelites were coming, he made war on them. But God delivered up the Canaanites for the Israelites and the community continued their journey. In order to bypass the land of Edom (because the King of Edom would not let them pass peacefully), they went on a long route by the Sea of Reeds.

Along the way, the spirit of the people grew short and they complained again of insufficient food and water. God sent poisonous snakes against the people, biting many of them to death. The people came to Moses, 'We have sinned, for we have spoken against God and against you. Pray that God may spare us from the snakes.' Moses prayed for the people.

God said to Moses, 'Make a copper snake and place it on a pole and whoever has been bitten by a snake will look upon the copper snake and live.' And it so happened.

The Israelites continued to journey and God gave them water from a well.

The Israelites sent out a message to the King of the Emorites to try to pass peacefully through the land. The King decided to attack Israel instead. With God’s blessings, the Israelites won the battle and settled in the land of the Emorites.

The Israelites ventured from there to the land of the Amorites asking to travel peacefully through that land. There was another war and another victory sanctioned by God. The Israelites took possession of the land before journeying on and camping in the wastelands of Moab on the other side of Jericho.

Questions For Discussion

1. Why do you think the Israelites were not allowed to pass through the foreign lands, even though they asked to pass peacefully? What were the Edomites, Canaanites, Emorites and Amorites afraid of? Do you think people today are ever afraid of foreign people? Of the Jewish people? Why?

2. Aaron died because of he 'defied God’s word at the waters of contention.' How did Aaron defy God’s word? Why did God impose a death penalty now but not earlier when Aaron allowed the people to build and worship the golden calf? What is the penalty when you defy God’s word?

3. Aaron died on Mt. Hor, and the people mourn for thirty days. However, when Miriam died and was buried in Kadesh, there was no text describing a mourning period for her. Why would the mourning process be different for a woman and man? Is it different today? Why?

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Nancy Reuben Greenfield

Nancy Reuben Greenfield has written three adaptations of the Torah, including an
interactive family version at, and an engaging
Jewish immigrant novel, The Golden Medina, available on itunes and Amazon.