Sunday, June 20, 2010

Commentaries on the "Red Cow - Parah Adumah", Part 1

The Red Cow

Photo: Temple Institute Jerusalem


Parashat Chukat - Bamidbar / Numeri 19:1 ff.:

G - tt commanded the Jews to take a perfect Red Hefer (Parah Adumah) outside the camp (in later times: outside the Temple) where the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) had to slaughter and burn it. The ashes of the Red Cow were then used for spiritual purification.

How commentate our Sages on the Parah Adumah ?

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch:
The Red Cow had to be absolutely perfect. Even two black or two white hairs would render it unfit for the intended purpose.

Ritual washing of hands and feet although the Parah Adumah was slaughtered outside the camp / Temple.

The Parah Adumah was led to the Mount of Olives; just a few meters away from the Tempel; east of Jerusalem. The Red Cow was led alone and not accompanied by other cows (see Talmud Tractate Yoma 43a).

In general, the procedure took place by day and not necessarily during the night.

Everybody taking part in any of the acts is "impure - tameh" and requires afterwards ritual cleansing (e.g. Mikveh) as well as ritual cleansing of his clothes.

Talmud Tractate Yoma 42a:
Here we find a dispute whether the Red Cow may also be slaughtered and burnt by an ordinary Cohen (Priest) or if the whole procedure needs to be carried out by the Cohen HaGadol (High Priest) only. Rav says YES - only by a High Priest because the Parah Adumah was not a regular Korban (sacrifice).

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