By Rabbi Moshe Goodman, Kollel Ohr Shlomo, Hebron
This painting, which R’ Nachshon z”l connected to parshat Hukat (I don’t have written evidence by Nachshon why) carries two elements that are explicit in parshat Hukat: the red heffer, apparently seen at the top of the painting, and the [changing] position of Moshe Rabeinu as leader [at the hitting of the rock], apparently signified by the letters Moshe at the top of the painting.
If the cow seen here does indeed indicate the red heffer used for the purification process it seems that the other animals seen here also indicate animals involved in purification process: the lamb used as an offering in the purification process of the leper, zav, and others [called in general by the term “mehusar kipurim”], a goat is used in the “purification” of Yom Kippur, and birds are used in the purification process of leprosy.
Interestingly, these animals were also used in “brit bein habtarim” – “the covenant between the pieces [of these animals that were split]”, and indeed we see a smoke of fire as if splitting these animals by half. This covenant made with Avraham, apparently [acc. to our Sages] in Hebron, also evokes the covenant made with Israel through offerings at Mount Sinai, a process from which our Sages learn the process of conversion to Judaism, I.e through dunking in a mikveh, circumcision [for men], and bringing offerings to the Temple [when standing]. Indeed, the waters of the mikveh are yet another important part of purification according to the Torah. These waters may be hinted in the painting in the seemingly “splitting waters” just underneath the letters of Moshe at the top of the painting. Indeed, the very name Moshe means to be drawn from waters. Interestingly, we also see Moshe Rabeinu involved in the splitting of the Red Sea, thereby “drawing” Israel out of Egypt. In this parsha we also see how the “test of the waters” in the hitting of the rock was also pivotal in the end of Moshe Rabeinu’s leadership and life just as the “test of the waters” was pivotal at Moshe Rabeinu’s birth and survival on the waters of the Nile.
The Rambam discusses, at the end of the laws of Purity in his Mishneh Torah, that “as one has entered the waters of Da’at-knowledge [similar to entering a mikveh] thus he is purified.” The Kabbalists indeed tie the figure of Moshe Rabeinu with the sefira of Da’at, a sefira also associated to connection and covenant. Therefore, we may have found a connection between the name Moshe mentioned at the top of this painting and the themes of purity and covenant found in this painting as well, these connection also tying the opening passage of this parsha discussing purity and the rest of the parsha discussing the leadership of Moshe Rabeinu [and his leading siblings Aharon and Miriam].
Of course, Hebron clearly evokes these themes of connection-hibur and covenant, the place where Israel made a covenant before Hashem with the leader King David. Here also shine the lights of purity in a magnificent way, as the book Sha’ar Hahatzer teaches us.