Nothing is easier than mocking what we don’t understand. If something sounds not up-to-date and we do not understand it with our limited minds within a second-and-a-half, we deem it irrelevant and use it to make cynical jokes about our tradition.
This week’s parshah, Chukat, starts with the words: “This is the statute of the Torah,” and describes something that has been considered a mystery to this very day – the mitzvah of the red heifer. Without going into detail, many commentators do not understand this mitzvah and treat it is a “gezeira” – a decree or edict that we keep without really understanding the reason behind it.
Generations of sages have asked: Are there are reasons for every mitzvah? Are there obvious reasons as well as hidden ones? Must we understand everything?
Here is just one idea from the Rambam (1135-1204), one of the greatest thinkers of all time, on this deep issue: “It is appropriate for man to observe the laws of the holy Torah and to know their purpose to the best of his ability. But if there is something he cannot find a purpose or reason for, let him not think lightly of it.”
The Rambam adds: “A person should not think about it the way one thinks about mundane things.”
On the one hand, we must make an effort, invest time and energy, and study. On the other hand, some things are hidden. Even if we do not completely understand something, we must be very careful not to think lightly of it.