Parshas Chukas

Words in bold represent changes to the traditional translation based on the Aramaic translation/commentary attributed to Onkelos the Ger.

Parshas Chukas

Chapter 19


1. Hashem spoke with Moshe and to Aharon, saying:

2. This is the statute of the law[1] that Hashem commanded, saying: Speak with the children of Israel and they shall bring you an unblemished red cow that has no defect in it, that a yoke has not come upon it.

3. You shall give it to Elazar the priest. It shall be brought to outside the camp and slaughtered in front of him.

4. Elazar the priest shall take from its blood with his finger and sprinkle from its blood towards the front of the Tent of Meeting seven times.

5. The cow shall be burned in his sight[2] – its hide, and its flesh and its blood with[3] its dung shall be burned.

6. The priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and crimson-dyed (wool), and throw (them) into the fire burning the cow.

7. The priest shall immerse his clothes[4] and wash his flesh in water, and after that he shall come into the camp. The priest shall be unclean until the evening.

8. And the one who burns it shall immerse his clothes in water and bathe his flesh in water, and be unclean until the evening.

9. A ritually clean man shall gather the ashes of the cow and store them outside the camp in a pure place. It shall be for the congregation of the children of Israel for safekeeping for the sprinkling water.[5] It is (for) purification.[6]

10. And the one who gathers the ashes of the cow shall immerse his clothes and be impure until the evening. It shall be an eternal statute for the children of Israel and for the stranger who converts among them.

11. The one who touches the corpse of any human soul shall be unclean (for) seven days.

12. He shall shall sprinkle on him[7] on the third day and on the seventh day, (and) he will be pure. And if he doesn’t sprinkle on him on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be pure.

13. All who touch a corpse of a human soul who will die and do not sprinkle on him contaminate Hashem’s Tabernacle; that person[8] will be expelled[9] from Israel because the sprinkling water was not thrown upon him. He will be unclean; his impurity is still upon him.[10]

14. This is the law (of) a person who will die in a tent: all who enter the tent and all who are in the tent will be unclean (for) seven days;

15. and every open earthenware vessel that doesn’t have a sealed[11] lid on it is unclean.

16. And all who touch, on the face of a field, one who was killed by the sword or who (simply) died, or a human bone or a grave, he shall be unclean (for) seven days.

17. Take for the unclean (person) from the ashes of burning the purification and place spring water[12] on it in a vessel.


18. A ritually clean person shall take hyssop, dip (it) in the water, and sprinkle (it) on the tent and on all the utensils and on the people[13] who were there, and on the one who touches the bone or the one who was killed or the one who died or the grave.

19. The pure (person) shall sprinkle it on the unclean (person) on the third day and on the seventh day, and he shall purify on the seventh day. He shall immerse his clothes and wash in water be pure in the evening.

20. And a man who will be unclean and will not sprinkle on him, that person will be expelled from among the community because he has contaminated Hashem’s sanctuary.[14] The sprinkling waters weren’t[15] thrown on him; he is unclean.

21. It shall be for them an eternal statute. And the one who sprinkles the sprinkling water shall immerse his clothes, and one who touches the sprinkling water shall be unclean until the evening.

22. And everything that the unclean (person) touches will be impure, and the person[16] who touches him will be unclean until evening.

Chapter 20

1. The children of Israel came – the entire congregation – to the Tzin wilderness in the first month. The people dwelled in in Rekam;[17] Miriam died there and she was buried there.

2. And there wasn’t water for the congregation. They assembled against Moshe and Aharon.

3. The people argued with Moshe and they said, “If only we had died when our brothers died[18] before Hashem!

4. And why have you brought Hashem’s community to this wilderness to die there – us and our livestock?

5. Why did you draw us up from Egypt to bring us to this terrible place? Not a place fit for planting seed and figs and vines and pomegranates, and there isn’t water to drink!”

6. Moshe and Aharon came from before the community to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. They fell on their faces and Hashem’s glory was revealed to them.


7. Hashem spoke with Moshe, saying,

8. “Take the staff and assemble the congregation – you and Aharon, your brother. Speak with the rock in their sight and it will give its water. You will bring out for them water from the rock and cause the congregation and their livestock to drink.”

9. Moshe took the rod from before Hashem, as he had been commanded.

10. Moshe and Aharon assembled the community in front of the rock. He said to them, “Listen up,[19] rebels! Shall we bring out water for you from this rock?”

11. Moshe raised his hand and he struck the rock with his rod twice. Plentiful water came out and the congregation and their livestock drank.

12. Hashem said to Moshe and to Aharon, “Since you did not believe in My word to sanctify Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this community into the land that I gave them.”

13. Those are the waters of dispute,[20] that the children of Israel argued before Hashem and He was sanctified through them.


14. Moshe sent messengers from Rekam to the king of Edom (saying), “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that has happened to us.

15. Our fathers descended to Egypt, and we dwelled in Egypt a long time,[21] and the Egyptians acted harshly with us and with our fathers.

16. We prayed before Hashem;[22] He accepted our prayer,[23] He sent an angel,[24] He brought us out of Egypt and behold, we are in Rekam, a city that is next to your border.[25]

17. We would now cross through your land. We won’t pass through field(s) or through vineyard(s), and we won’t drink water from pit(s).[26] We will traverse the king’s highway; we won’t turn to the right or to the left until we have crossed your border.”

18. The Edomite[27] said to him, “You shall not pass through my boundary, lest I will go out to meet you with those who kill by the sword.”

19. The children of Israel said to him, “We will go up on the beaten path, and if I or my cattle drink your water, I will give their price. It’s really nothing bad; I will pass through on foot.”

20. He said, “You shall not pass!” The Edomite went out to meet them with a large army, heavily armed.[28]

21. The Edomite refused to permit Israel to cross his border and Israel turned away from him.


22. They traveled from Rekam and the children of Israel – the entire congregation – came to Mount Hor.

23. Hashem said to Moshe and Aharon at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, saying,

24. “Aharon will be gathered to his people because he will not come to the land that I gave the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word regarding the waters of dispute.

25. Take Aharon and Elazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor.

26. Strip Aharon of his garments and dress Elazar his son with them, Aharon will be gathered and die there.”

27. Moshe did as Hashem commanded. They ascended Mount Hor in the eyes of the entire congregation.

28. Moshe stripped Aharon of his garments and he dressed Elazar his son with them. Aharon died there on top of the mountain. Moshe and Elazar descended from the mountain.

29. The entire congregation saw that Aharon had died. The whole house of Israel cried for Aharon (for) thirty days.

Chapter 21

1. The Canaanite, king of Arad, who dwelled in the South, heard that Israel was coming by the way of the spies; he battled against Israel and took some of them captive.

2. Israel swore an oath[29] before Hashem; he said, “If You deliver this people into my hand, I will ban their cities.”

3. Hashem accepted Israel’s prayer and He delivered the Canaanite(s); they and their cities were destroyed.[30] He called the name of the place Chormah.[31]

4. They traveled from Mount Hor by way of the Sea of Reeds to go around the land of Edom. But the soul of the people became agitated[32] on the way.

5. The people complained against Hashem’s word and they argued with Moshe: “Why did you bring us up from Egypt to die in the wilderness? Because there’s no bread and no water, and our soul is distraught with this manna, which is insubstantial food.”

6. Hashem provoked[33] fiery serpents against the people. They bit the people and many people of Israel died.

7. The people came to Moshe. They said, “We sinned because we complained before Hashem and argued with you. Pray before Hashem and remove the serpents from us!” Moshe prayed on behalf of the people.

8. Hashem said to Moshe, “Make for yourself (an image of) a fiery (snake). Place it on a pole and it will be (that) all who were bitten shall look at it and survive.”[34]

9. Moshe made a copper serpent and placed it on a pole. It would happen if a serpent bit a man, he would look at the copper serpent and survive.


10. The children of Israel traveled and they camped on Ovos.

11. They traveled from Ovos and camped at The Avarim pass in the wilderness that was facing Moav towards the rising sun.

12. From there they traveled and camped in the Zared valley.

13. From there they traveled and camped on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that goes from the Emorite border, because Arnon is the border of Moav, between Moav and the Emorites.[35]

14. Therefore it says in the book[36] the wars that Hashem made at the Red Sea and the mighty deeds at the Arnon streams.

15. And the flow of the streams that stretched towards L’chayas,[37] and leans to the border of Moav.”

16. And from there a well was given to them – that is the well where Hashem said to Moshe, “Gather the people and I will give them water.”

17. Then Israel sang this praise:[38] Ascend, well; sing to it!

18. The well that the leaders[39] dug, the heads of the people carved, scholars with their staffs, and from the wilderness it was given to them.[40]

19. And from when it was given to them it went down with them to the valleys, and from the valleys it went up with them to the heights,

20. and from the heights to the valleys that are in the fields of Moav, on the top of the peak, overlooking the face of the wasteland place.


21. Israel sent messengers to Sichon, king of the Emorites, saying,

22. “I would pass through your land. We will not turn off into field(s) or into vineyard(s), and we will not drink well water. We will traverse the king’s highway until we have crossed your border.”

23. And Sichon wouldn’t permit Israel to cross his border. Sihon gathered all his people and he went out to meet Israel in the wilderness. He came to Yahatz and battled against Israel.

24. Israel struck them by the word of his sword and took possession of their land from Arnon to Yabok, until the children of Ammon, because the border of the children of Ammon was strong.

25. Israel conquered[41] all these cities, and Israel settled in all the cities of the Emorites, in Cheshbon and all its suburbs.[42]

26. Because Cheshbon was the city of Sichon, king of the Emorites, and he battled against the first king of Moav and took all his land from his hand until Arnon.

27. Therefore the storytellers[43] would say, “Come to Cheshbon; built and established, Sichon’s city.

28. For a mighty east wind like fire went out from Cheshbon, warriors like flame from Sichon’s city, they killed the nation that dwelled in L’chayas (of) Moav, the priests who serve in the house of the “god” in the heights of Arnon.

29. Woe to you, Moabites![44] You are lost, people who serve Chemosh! His sons are given tied[45] and his daughters captives for an Emorite king, Sichon.”

30. Sovereignty has stopped from Cheshbon; dominion was removed from Divon and they[46] laid waste up to Nofach, which is close to Meidva.

31. Israel dwelled in the land of the Emorites.

32. Moshe sent (people) to spy out Yazeir; they captured its suburbs and drove out the Emorites who were there.

33. They turned and ascended towards the way to Masnan.[47] Og, king of Masnan, went out to meet them – he and all his people, to battle in Edrei.

34. Hashem said to Moshe, “Do not fear him for I give him and all his people and his land into your hand. You shall do to him as you did to Sichon, king of the Emorites, who dwelled in Cheshbon.”

35. They struck him and his sons and all his people until no remnant remained for him; they took possession of his land.

Chapter 22

1. The children of Israel traveled and they camped in the plains of Moav, across the Jordan from Jericho.

[1] Hebrew: Torah.

[2] Literally, “in his eyes.”

[3] Literally, “on.”

[4] As opposed to “wash his clothes,” which could be interpreted as laundering.

[5] Hebrew: mei niddah.

[6] Hebrew: chatas. Onkelos retains the same word he uses for a sin offering.

[7] Rather than "He shall purify with it.” (The “He” in Onkelos doing the sprinkling refers to a third party and not to the one who is impure.)

[8] Rather than “soul.”

[9] As opposed to “cut off.”

[10] Literally, “in him.”

[11] Rather than “tight.”

[12] Rather than “living water.”

[13] Literally, “souls.”

[14] Hebrew: Mikdash.

[15] Onkelos pluralizes this.

[16] Chumash: “soul.”

[17] The name for Kadeish known to Onkelos’ original audience.

[18] Rather than “perished.”

[19] Literally, “hear now.”

[20] Hebrew: Meriva. Onkelos doesn’t treat this as a proper noun.

[21] Literally, “many days.”

[22] Rather than “We cried to Hashem.”

[23] Rather than “heard our voice.”

[24] As opposed to “a messenger.”

[25] Chumash: “on the edge of your border.”

[26] Rather than “well(s)”; see Rashi.

[27] Rather than “Edom.”

[28] Literally, “with a strong hand.”

[29] Rather than “a vow.”

[30] Rather than “banned” (Hebrew: cheirem).

[31] Meaning “destruction.”

[32] Rather than “short.”

[33] Rather than “sent.”

[34] As opposed to “live.”

[35] Literally, “between Moav and between the Emorites.”

[36] Onkelos recontextualizes “The Book of Hashem’s Wars.”

[37] Rather than “the settlement of Ar.”

[38] Rather than “song.”

[39] Rather than “nobles.”

[40] Chumash: “a gift.”

[41] Rather than “took.”

[42] The word in the Chumash literally means “daughters.”

[43] i.e., “those who speak in parables.”

[44] Rather than “Moav.”

[45] Rather than “fugitives.”

[46] Rather than “we.”

[47] Rather than “Bashan.”

© Copyright 2022 Rabbi Jack Abramowitz