The Red Heifer

Red Heifer candidate?We have a tendency to take lists and break them down into categories and sub categories. F LaGard Smith, a Christian commentator, separates the “Laws of Moses” into nine categories[1]. In Pirkei Avot 1:1, the members of the Great Assembly tell us we are to be deliberate [persistent and thoughtful] in judgment, establish many disciples [a reference to the quality of Torah students not necessarily their quantity], and to construct boundaries around the Torah [not additional rules to keep us far from Torah, but interpretations that allow us to embrace Torah]. The hermeneutical principles we learn from the likes of Hillel [who gave us seven principles], R’ Ishmael [with 13 rules], and R’ Eliezer [who provides 32 rules] give us the tools to do those three things. These tools allow us to rightly divide the Word of Truth[2].

The Rabbis disseminated the 613 commands[3] from Torah into two categories: Negative and Positive commands. The 365[4] negative commands are the “You Shall Not,” while the 248 positive commands are the “You Shall” statements. Another reckoning of the commands is to split them into three categories: mishpatim, edot, and chukim. Mishpatim are logical commands that make sense to the human mind. Edot are commands designed to keep events in mind; they are also known as testimonies. Chukim are commands that either never made sense to the rational mind or they no longer make sense within our post-Biblical context. In all my reading, I’ve never seen anyone quantify these three [probably because no one wants to list a command under Chukkah and be mocked for not understanding an understandable command].

Definitions to Remember:

Av Hatumah: Direct contact with a corpse affords corpse tumah [av hatumah]; also, someone in contact with an av hatumah who is in contact with a corpse contracts corpse tumah

Eglah Arufah: The heifer whose neck is broken to atone for the death of a corpse found when no one knows who perpetrated the deed

Parah Adumah: The Red Heifer

Tahor: Someone who is halachically defined as pure

Tamei: Someone who is in a state of ritual impurity

Tumah Ohel: Uncleanness contracted to objects and persons sharing the same roof as a human corpse


Chukkat haTorah: There is one command everyone agrees is a chukkah, and that is the law of the Parah Adumah [the Red Heifer]. Numbers 19 begins by stating, “Zot chukkat hatorah asher-tzivah Hashem,” or “This is the decree of the Torah as commanded by Hashem.” Two things are being said in that statement:

  1. Hashem is readying to provide us a command we have little or no hope to understand. As the command unfolds in the remaining 20-some verses of Numbers 19, we see it unveil strange, unusual, and seemingly illogical procedures. The rabbis consider the Red Heifer as the ultimate unknowable command – the greatest example of a command we perform without understanding “why.” In fact, when R’ Yochanan and Reish Lakish analyzed the Red Heifer to find a uniform pattern of conditions throughout the statute, they were able to find nothing but what the fox brings up on its feet from the plowed fields [dust][5].
  2. The use of “Statute of the Torah” limits our ability to use gezirah shavah[6] arguments when interpreting the text. Because gezirah shavah is ripe for abuse, the Rabbis limit its use to phrases and words. This limitation of interpretation goes so far as to suggest that if one deviates from the prescribed chronology of tasks, the whole procedure is invalid and the body of the Red Heifer [a rare creature indeed] is wasted[7]. There are other such commands in Torah, and the mnemonic provided in b. Menachot 19a gives us a easy way to remember them: natatz yakmel [nazir[8], todah[9], tzaraat[10], Yom Hakippurim[11], korbanot[12], minchah[13], and lechem hapanim[14]]. These are the essential laws that generally use “Chukkat and Torah” together, though the Gemara in Menachot 19a emends its original ruling and determines that “Chukkat” does not necessarily have to be accompanied with “Torah” to be an essential Chukkat. Again, “this is the statute of the Law,” indicates there shall be only one law for the Red Heifer and one shall not deviate from it through the use of gezirah shavah[15] [by making a leniency in the order of the service].

One thing to notice is that the Red Heifer service has similarities with both the Yom Kippur service as well as the Eglah Arufah. The Yom Kippur service affords the community an opportunity to confess its communal sin and to return to a state of close kavanah with Hashem. The Eglah Arufah comes to us because of our lack of hospitality: a dead body is discovered and the nearest town [if the body is discovered in a field] must perform the ritual of “the heifer whose neck is broken,” in order to atone for the death when no one knows who perpetrated the deed. Because of various similarities between the three, I will repeatedly refer to these two rituals, so at least a cursory knowledge will be helpful. These services or rituals can be found in Leviticus 16 [Yom Kippur] and Deuteronomy 21:1-9 [Eglah Arufah].

In Leviticus 16, the Torah details the Korach rebellion, and in spite of Moshe’s attempts at reconciliation, the event ends tragically as Korach and his followers [250 men of renown] and their families[16] perish. The problem was not over, sadly, for the next day, 14,700 stood against Moshe and the Tent of Meeting. In total 14,950 people died. After these events, the Torah reaffirms Aaron’s appointment as High Priest, Hashem provides regulations on approaching and entering the Tent of Meeting, and he provides for the care of the priests and the Levites. In Chapter 20, Miriam dies. Nestled in the midst of this sadness and death is a rule on how we can return to a state of purity once we have grieved and cared for our dead[17].

The Cases of Chief Uncleanness [Av Hatumah]: A human being causes corpse tumah once his or her boy ceases physical manifestations of life – mainly breath. Once the body exhales its last breath, the body dies and it immediately exudes av hatumah. Any living person who contacts the corpse contracts corpse tumah, or becomes unclean from a dead body. Since this the most severe state of uncleanness, it is given the name Av Hatumah. Rava [speaking in the name of Mar Zutra the son of R’ Nachman who further spoke in the name of R’ Nachman[18]] said anyone who touches a corpse or who touches someone while in contact with a corpse has tumah for seven days. By saying “upon the living beings [nephashot] who were there,” Numbers 19:18 indicates everyone can become an av hatumah[19]. Further, Rava states that anyone who touches a contaminated person while he is not in direct contact with a corpse is simply tamei until evening. However, the sages dictate that the person is indeed unclean for the full seven days [not just until evening]. Yose ben Yoezer rightly rules in favor of our Sages and did so to permit them doubtful tumah in the public domain. Yose states that:

  1. Direct contact with a corpse affords corpse tumah [av hatumah].
  2. Someone in contact with an av hatumah who is in contact with a corpse contracts corpse tumah.
  3. Those who touch the person with av hatumah are simply tumah for seven days. In like manner, whoever touches a body in the open field killed by a sword [whether a victim of combat, a victim of murder] or a corpse, [referring to one who dies by any other means aside from a sword[20]] is unclean for seven days[21].

An Av Hatumah can transmit uncleanness – even to an infant[22]. By use of “soul,” the mitzvah designates everyone with a soul, even an infant or a woman. Sprinkling with the water of the Red Heifer[23] is required for cleansing. However, idolaters are exempt and are not subject to the rules of uncleanness[24]. We know this because the verse states, “Shall be cut off from the midst of the congregation.” Idolaters [goyim] are not part of the congregation and are, therefore, excluded.

When one is unclean from a dead body, a seven-day separation begins, much like the separation demanded when one cohabits with a niddah. Seven days’ tumah is written for both commands. Just as one is banished from the camp of the Shekinah for corpse uncleanness, so too, one who cohabits with a niddah[25] is banished from the camp of the Shekinah for seven days[26].

Numbers 19:13 verse states benefesh ha’adam, “of a soul of the man;” the redundant “of a soul” may be understood as “a corpse within a human being[27],” which would be a dead fetus in a woman’s womb, and the verse states that anyone who touches the fetus is unclean. It would seem logical that this is qualified under the pretense that one knows the fetus is dead. However, if one reaches into the womb to rotate a dead baby from breech birth, for instance, the midwife is corpse-unclean for seven days. Once the head crowns and presents, the mother, too, contracts corpse uncleanness. The midwife must submit to the seven-day purification for av hatumah before continuing her midwifery duties.

A discussion within Babylonian Talmud ensued over issues of av hatumah. While it’s clear that a whole or complete corpse inflicts av hatumah upon any who touch it, what about body parts? Leviticus 11:39 uses the phrase, “And if there dies ‘from’ an animal,” indicating that a limb severed from an animal conveys tumah if it is a limb that cannot be regenerated. In other words, a portion of flesh that can heal and rebuild (like a small portion of muscle, fat, or skin that rebuilds as it heals) does not convey uncleanness; however, an actual limb that is a permanent loss of functionality, conveys corpse uncleanness via a roof[28]. Bechorot 44b-45a further gives a Mishnah detailing the rules regarding extra limbs and the Kohen’s ability or fitness to perform the avodah. In this discussion, if the extra limb [be it a toe, a finger, etc.] has a bone in it, he is considered unfit to bring the avodah, even though the amputation brings him to the normal number of fingers or toes. However, if the removed extra digit did not contain a bone, he is fit. This discussion digressed into the subject of av hatumah and is application to missing limbs from a living body. R’ Chaninah[29] ruled that for a limb [or a body part] to convey tumah ohel[30], it must contain three things: flesh, gidin [arteries, veins, and nerves], and bone. If these three items do not exist, it does not exude av hatumah.

If the three items exist above [i.e., that a body or a limb contains flesh, veins or nerves, and bone], at some point, they should cease being sources of av hatumah. For instance, the natural tendency for things to decompose and break down to their base components, should render this material no longer tamei but in fact, tahor! A baraisa states, “Flesh from a corpse that has crumbled is tahor.[31]” Here, we learn that bones or graves are sources of contamination until they crumble to dust. When wet or dry they convey tumah, but once they are so dry they crumble, they are tahor. This is one reason Jewish tradition does not allow bodies to be embalmed. Embalming obstructs the natural decomposition and our corpses’ natural return to a state of tahor. Once we are reduced to dust, we no longer convey av hatumah or tumah ohel to anyone.

Seeds, food, and beverages can never attain the level of av hatumah[32]. The implication is that the capacity to convey tumah to utensils and people is limited to those mentioned in verse 22. In other words, “Whatever [utensil] the contaminated person touches shall be unclean – and whomever touches [the utensil] shall be unclean until evening.” The things subject to the purification process mentioned in verse 18. Since food, beverages, and earthware utensils are not mentioned in verse 18, they cannot be purified of corpse tumah; therefore they never acquire av hatumah and they never contaminate people or utensils.

Other Issues of Corpse Tumah

Tumah Ohel [Tumah from Roof Association]: While on the topic of Tumah Ohel, the Rabbis have much to say on this concept, but I will keep my comments concise. Here [Numbers 19:14] it is written, “This is the law regarding a man who dies in a tent[33].” There [Exodus 40:19] it is written, “And he spread the tent over the Tabernacle.” Using a gezirah shavah on tent-tent, we see an Ohel is a shelter created by man. And everything under this structure and anything used in the roof of the Tabernacle [including flax] are susceptible to roof tumah[34] if a person dies under that roof. So too, here [in the case of tumah], the term “ohel” is used to describe a shelter created by man[35]. This places a limitation on which structures are and are not susceptible to tumah ohel.

In the midst of a discussion regarding the primacy of the written vs. oral pronunciation of Torah[36], A baraisa accredited to R. Akiva is quoted. “R’ Akiva states, ‘From where is it known that a revit of blood that flows from two corpses transmits tumah through roof association?’ for it states, ‘He shall not approach any dead body’” [Leviticus 21:11]. But the Rabbis argue that the word is written, “נַפְשֹׁ֥ת[37],” suggesting a singular term as opposed to “נַפְשֹׁ֣ות,” which is plural, meaning the contamination of only one body renders an area beneath a roof contaminated. Interestingly, R’ Shimon ben Yochai quotes a baraisa, “Graves of idolaters do not transmit tumah by way of a roof because it is stated, ‘Now you my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, you are Adam.’ Idolaters are not called ‘adam.[38]’ Therefore, this is the instruction regarding an “adam” who dies in a tent.[39]

In an Open Field: Reish Lakish taught a baraisa that said, “‘In the open field’ alludes to someone who interposes himself over a corpse. ‘The body of someone felled’ alludes to a limb severed from a living person with enough flesh in it to regenerate were it not severed. ‘Sword’ teaches the sword is like the body [or an extension of the limb]. ‘Or a corpse’ alludes to a limb severed from a corpse. ‘Or a human bone’ alludes to a quarter-kav[40] of bones. ‘Or a grave’ refers to a sealed tomb.[41]” In its use of “Anyone who touches… in an open field,” Numbers 19:16 automatically excludes a dead fetus in a woman’s womb, an executed criminal, and a person slain by the sword [or any implement of war], but includes the cover and wall of a coffin[42]. Rabbi Yishmael says this Halacha is part of the Oral Tradition taught to Moshe on Sinai.

Conveyance Through Utensils: Open utensils, by roof association, or Tumah Ohel, contract av hatumah[43]. Numbers 19:18 states “to you” and “anything upon which” indicates that any part of the utensil or vessel that is rendered tamei causes the whole item to become tamei for you. The inclusive “all the utensils” teaches that the chattat water must be sprinkled on the vessel and any part of the vessel that helps maintain the vessel[44] [i.e., gourds with a supporting wire structure, for instance]. However, if a utensil is rendered useless [i.e., is broken or otherwise destroyed] and is of no further use, it regains the status of tahor.

If the utensil is enclosed in a container with an airtight cover[45] [not including a drawer since a drawer allows a free exchange of air between the empty space of the drawer and the air around it], the utensil remains tahor [clean]. By stating “its interior” in Leviticus 11:33, however, Torah teaches that tumah is conveyed only through the interior empty space of the utensil or vessel. Because an earthenware container contracts tumah through its inner space only, this verse refers specifically to earthenware vessels. The verse is needed to prove that even av hatumah does not affect the inner space of an earthen vessel with tumah if it is sealed. Therefore, open vessels[46] [even earthenware] contract corpse tumah if under the same roof as a dead body[47].

Keep in mind that we must understand a vessel that transmits tumah through its exterior surface also transmits tumah through its inner volume. However, we must understand that if a vessel transmits tumah from its inner space it does not necessarily transmit tumah through its exterior surface [an earthenware vessel being the prime example].

A sword is considered an extension of the person wielding it; therefore a dead body touched by the sword transmits av hatumah to the person holding it[48]. In fact the Master states that since Scripture says, “the body of someone felled by the sword,” it teaches that a sword or any other metal implement that touches a dead body is itself like the body in regard to its level of tumah[49]. Similarly, a metal implement [including a utensil] that touches a person with corpse tumah acquires the same level of tumah and, in turn, contaminates utensils, foods, and people.

The Talmud relates a story[50] where Queen Shaltzion attempts to circumnavigate the seven-day purification process required to recover from corpse tumah by breaking her utensils and having a whitesmith repair them by using searing heat to partially melt down her metal utensils. In theory, by breaking her utensils and rendering them useless, she instantly purified them. The whitesmith, then, soldered them to return the implements to both a state of usefulness and clean. However, the Rabbis ruled that the utensils revert to their old tumah once the repair is complete, showing the seriousness of corpse Tumah. Once repaired, the seven-day purification process continues and the whitesmith is now a party to the tumah.

Procuring the Parah Adumah: Numbers 19:2 tells Aaron we are to “bring you [Aaron, that is] the red heifer.” However, nothing is said regarding the procurement process. Is it supposed to be a gift? Are we allowed to purchase the Red Heifer from the nations? Are we allowed to purchase her from idolaters, or are we limited to sellers who are of Jewish descent?

Rashi, looking at Verse 2 notes that while the vowels of “veyechu,” read as “bring,” they can be reread as “veyichu,” which means, “sell.” R’ Eliezer understands the verse in accordance with the vowelization of “veyichu.[51]” Therefore, the Rabbis have the idea that the Parah Adumah must be purchased using the Temple funds, allowing it to become a dedicated holy item.

In reference to its purchase, Avodah Zarah 23a quotes R’ Eliezer and says that we may not purchase the Parah Adumah from idolaters. However, the Sages permit it. Eliezer rules against purchasing from idolatrous nations in fear that there is a lack of Quality Control, so to speak, and the possibility of sodomy against the heifer exists. The Sages, on the other hand, use Isaiah 60:7, which refers to Keidar: a place inhabited by idolaters. If we are allowed, in Isaiah, to purchase flocks bound for sacrifice from the idolaters of Keidar, the Sages postulate that all animals are available for sacrifice[52]. However, the Sages place a stipulation on the animals’ purchase. It cogently states that any animal who is without question sodomized, this violation render the animal unfit whether the animal was destined to be for sacrifice, an Eglah Arufah [the heifer whose neck is broken], or as the Parah Adumah. The logic is that as a blemished heifer is unqualified to become a Parah Adumah, how much more a sodomized heifer.

Unlike R’ Eliezer, the Sages do not automatically assume idolaters will sodomize their animals. R’ Eliezer, in reference to the Parah Adumah, worries that a burden may be placed upon the heifer, rendering it ineligible to be the Parah Adumah[53]. The Sages claim the value of a Parah Adumah candidate is so exorbitant that an idolater will not place a yoke on it in fear that he be detected and forfeit the value. R’ Eliezer chooses to err on the side of the phrase “Speak to the children of Israel and let him take,” which indicates the Parah Adumah must come from a Jewish herd[54], while the Sages chose to err on the side of prudence because the Parah Adumah is such a rare animal. By saying, “Speak to the children of Israel and let him take,” the Torah seems to indicate the Parah Adumah must be purchased from a fellow Jew. However, Dama ben Nesinah from Ashkelon[55] deeply honored his father and Heaven rewarded him the following year with a Parah Adumah. The sages of Israel went to purchase the animal from the idolater[56]. By relating this story, R’ Eliezer seems to be contradicting himself from his statements in 23a, but one must understand that the Sages of Israel purchased the Red Heifer from Dama and then sold it to the Temple; therefore, Rav Eliezer is not contradicting himself. Instead, he is giving historic evidence to support his summation.

Purity of the Parah Adumah: Verse 2 indicates three things are required for a kosher Red Heifer: the Parah Adumah must be perfectly red, the animal must be void of defect, and the animal must never have had a yoke upon it. Normally, a kal vachomer would exist between the Parah Adumah and the Eglah Arufah. For instance, if we find that the Parah Adumah is not disqualified by age yet disqualified by a blemish, should we not determine, then, that because age disqualifies the Eglah Arufah, should a blemish not also disqualify it? However, we find that one disqualifies the one and the other disqualifies the other! In like manner, if an Eglah Arufah hauls a load she is disqualified, while a Parah Adumah cannot even carry a load before she is disqualified.



Required Age

Work Limitation


Parah Adumah


No Limitation

No load lain on her shoulders

No defect

Eglah Arufah[57]


One year or Less

No step taken with a load

Defect permitted

The defects limiting the Parah Adumah are the same as those that made the chattat [sin] offering invalid. This is discovered by the use of a gezirah shavah on the word “chattat.[58]” However, the gezirah shavah is good only in regard to the effects that disqualify the animal. Also, the number of defects and flaws allowed via the gezirah shavah are limited to those that are found on the physical exterior of the animal because just as the cow’s slaughter is whole [Verse 3], so must her burning be whole [Verse 5]. Therefore, the cow will not be cut open to check for the qualification markers required[59].

He shall Take It: If the Parah Adumah does not want to go out, we do not have it accompany a black or even another red cow[60], because the text says, “He shall take HER.” While m. Parah 3:7 provides other logical reasons [i.e., other animals are not taken out with the Parah Adumah so the people cannot say that another animal or both animals were slaughtered, which, if true, would disqualify the Parah Adumah], R’ Yose said it’s because she must be brought forth alone[61]. Ulla, however, states that the above is not a proper exposition of the text. Instead, Ulla says, “he shall take it,” indicates that he shall only slaughter the Parah Adumah in order to give the service his undivided attention.

In the case of a Parah Adumah who hesitates and will not be led, one is able to legally use a halter or a leash as additional encouragement for the Parah Adumah to move from the Temple Mount [where the animal was inspected by the Kohen Gadol][62] to the designated place outside the walls of Jerusalem [or the camp]. The prohibition of yoke indicates the prohibition of excessive restraint or burden. Therefore, using a halter or leash to lead her is legal as long as the lead is not thrown on her back; this would be considered a burden and the parah Adumah would be disqualified.

Using a gezirah shavah on “outside the camp,” one can determine that the he-goat [that is sent away to Azazel and the Kohen Gadol’s bull[63], these animals are burned outside all three camps[64]. However, the Parah Adumah is the only one slaughtered outside the camp[65].  These three sacrifices are exempt from the prohibition of bringing sacrifices outside the Temple. The Torah expressly says “outside the camp.” In this case, outside the walls of Jerusalem are equivalent to “outside the camp.[66]

Slaughtering & Sprinkling the Parah Adumah: Once the Parah Adumah is inspect end passes the rigorous requirements, the Deputy Kohen Gadol must prepare himself for the task ahead. Leviticus 8:33-35[67] indicates that the Kohen Gadol must not leave the Sanctuary during the seven days prior to the Yom Kippur service. During the Temple Periods, the High Priest spent his evenings in the Parhedrin Chamber[68]. A gezirah shavah on the phrase “and G-d commanded,” in association with the seven-day period, allowed R’ Yonah bar Kappara to state that this also refers to the burning of the Parah Adumah, but instead of the Kohen Gadol being sequestered, it was Elazar[69]. In comparing the Yom Kippur separation with the Parah Adumah sequestration, the Gemara states that the first is for sanctity while the second is for purity. In the first, one may not touch the Kohen to protect him from tumah for the Yom Kippur service, while the second, one may not touch him in order to keep him from losing the status of tahor. Therefore, prior to performing the Parah Adumah service, Elazar[70] submits to a seven-day sequestering period as well.

Several opinions arise in the discussions regarding the Parah Adumah’s slaughtering. R’ Zeira says in the name of Rav that Scripture makes it clear that the slaughtering of the Parah Adumah must be performed by a Kohen otherwise it is invalid[71] However, this is found within a discussion whether sacrifice is an avodah. Since it is not, Scripture actually makes it clear that a non-Cohen is able to validly slaughter sacrifices! Since the Torah describes the ritual, as “this is the statute of the Torah,” the Torah requires that the events be performed exactly as described without the use of a gezirah shavah to diminish its details[72]. Since the verse states “statute” and “Elazar,” we know the Deputy Kohen Gadol plays an intricate part of the ceremony.

As pertinent to the details as Elazar is, he does not sacrifice the red heifer[73]. Verse 3 clearly indicates he plays the role of an attentive observer[74] for it states, “he [the slaughterer] shall slaughter her in front of him [Elazar the Kohen][75].” Since the text does not specify who the slaughterer is, here’s no logical reason to automatically claim it is a Kohen[76]. This indicates that the one who slaughters is not the same person as Elazar who observes[77]. Shmuel clearly indicates that a non-Kohen [a member of the 12 Tribes, a Levite, or even a Kohen] is able to slaughter[78] the animal while Elazar [the deputy Kohen Gadol] watches. R’ Yirmeyah says in the name of R’ Imi that Verse 5 indicates both the location of the animal’s “departure” from life and the animal’s burning shall be the same location[79]. When the animal is ready for slaughter through shechitah, we know the animal was led from the Temple to the Mount of Olives [outside Jerusalem]. The animal was slaughtered, the rituals performed, and the burning all occurred at the same location.

When the Parah Adumah is slaughtered, one is not able to perform it and any other service simultaneously; i.e., the service must be performed lishmah [for its own sake], just like any other chattat[80] sacrifice[81], otherwise it is rendered invalid. The verse says, “He shall slaughter it,” and not, “And he shall slaughter it and its fellow.” The Cohen invalidates the service because he performed another task simultaneously[82]. However, if one slaughters another [unconsecrated] animal along with the Parah Adumah, the Parah Adumah may be invalid but the slaughter of the other animal is valid[83]!

When the animal is slaughtered, her blood is collected. According to m. Parah 3:7, the blood from the cut was received in the left hand and flicked seven times toward the Sanctuary with the right index finger. The rest of the blood collected from the Parah Adumah, presumably, was collected in one of the golden bowls [see Ezra 1:10], for the blood had to be collected and burned with the rest of the animal[84]. By mentioning Elazar once again in Verse 4, the text keeps the sprinkling[85] within the duties of the Deputy Kohen Gadol[86]. If the text had said, “And HE shall take some of the blood, etc.,”” the sprinkling would have been done by the non-Kohen who slaughtered the Parah Adumah. The phrase “and he shall slaughter and he shall sprinkle[87]” in Verse 3 indicates that the Parah Adumah needs to be slaughtered outside the gate[88] [on the Mount of Olives] so that the priest may face the sanctuary and sprinkle the blood toward the sanctuary. Rav Yehuda taught that “to the front [el pnei]” is precise because of the use of “el.” However, the Rabbis indicate that “el” does not necessarily make it precise. The verse is question is found in Leviticus 16:14. R’ Yehuda, then, postulates that “he shall sprinkle toward [el nochach pnei]” must also be precise. However, the command of Parah Adumah is already precise because the mitzvah begins with “This is the statute of the Torah.[89]” Therefore, the conclusion is that the blood is sprinkled toward the Sanctuary, not necessarily directly at the cover of the Aron[90].

With each flick of the finger, the Kohen wiped his finger[91] diligently upon the fur of the Parah Adumah[92]. When the Cohen finished sprinkling the blood of the Parah Adumah toward the sanctuary, he wiped his hand on the fur of the cow[93].  The rest of the collected blood was carefully poured onto the animal’s fur, making sure every bit was removed from the bowl. Now, the animal is ready to be burned.

An onein[94] can perform the burning and it is considered valid[95]. For in like manner, the sacrifice of Aaron after the death of his sons was considered a valid sacrifice. However, if someone lacking atonement burns it, it is invalid. Yosef haBavli states that a Zav[96] who lacks atonement is a full-fledged zav. However, a tevul yom[97] can burn the Parah Adumah, even in his state of reduced tumah. The Parah Adumah ritual is performed outside the temple in a clean place [on the Mount of Olives], therefore, the strict tamei rules of the Temple do not apply.

Burning the Carcass: Her body is laid on a pyre within a pit. According to Verse 5, her flesh, her blood, her hide, and even her dung [presumably still contained within her organs] are to be burned [i.e., without washing] before his eyes. Shmuel states that “before his eyes,” indicates Elazar shall burn the Parah Adumah before his very [own] eyes[98]. However, Sifre states that someone else shall burn the cow while Elazar oversees.

Ulla develops the Parah Adumah passage along similar lines to Sifre. He says the deputy Kohen Gadol [i.e., the Elazar of his generation] need not perform subsequent parot adumot[99]. M. Parah 4:1 retains and supports the ruling of R. Judah’s [contrary to the stipulations created by the Sadducees[100]] that the Kohen Gadol need not be the Kohen who performs [or more accurately oversees] the burning. Accepted is the ruling that an ordinary Kohen can perform the ritual [with the deputy Kohen Gadol dutifully overseeing the events] and it is considered valid. In fact, this is the preferred method, for it keeps the Kohen Gadol free to perform other duties.

After the pyre is lit and her carcass is laid on the wood, the one who burns the Parah Adumah [and anyone assisting with laying her whole body on the wood, becomes unclean[101]. They must wash their clothes and remain outside the camp until evening. Upon the close of the day, they may return to their homes or duties.

Red woolen strips[102] are required for the Parah Adumah[103]. It is cast into the fire with hyssop and cedar wood. Rashi notes that the crimson woolen strip must be of significant weight in order to make sure it plummets into the flame[104]. However, if it is bundled with the cedar wood and the hyssop, sufficient weight is achieved. Therefore, Rebbe uses “take[105]” to prove that the hyssop and cedar wood are bound in one bundle, and tied with scarlet wool, in order that they be thrown into the fire of the Parah Adumah at once. R’ Elazar ben R’ Shimon says they are bound in order that they have weight to fall into the pit with the burning carcass[106]; however, Rebbe indicates the three are bound together so they land on the burning carcass simultaneously.

Since the hyssop, cedar wood, and scarlet wool are not part of the Parah Adumah, one would safely assume a non-kohen could participate in that portion of the Parah Adumah service! Therefore, the text specifically mentions the Kohen. This means the Deputy Kohen Gadol [who sprinkled with his finger] is the one who casts the three-part bundle onto the burning Parah Adumah[107].

In the discussions regarding the weight of the scarlet strip, one must remember “both the one who does much and the one who does little.” The Mishnah in Menachot 110a states that whether one provides a large offering or a small one, Hashem equally accepts them. The only thing that truly matters is availability, affordability, and intent.

Collecting the Ashes: Since the animal is considered a Whole Burnt Offering in terms of consumption, a large amount of wood must be used to reduce the animal, it entrails, and its bones to ash. Logically, it will also contain ash from the wood used to burn the animal. When the animal is consumed by fire and only ash remain, Rabbi Akiva notes that the “earth” from the burning of the Parah Adumah is the ashes[108]. Why use affar [earth] instead of eifer [ashes]? A gezirah shavah links Numbers 19:17 to Numbers 5:17 [the torah of the Sotah[109] and the jealous husband]. By using the term affar, the text is reminding us that the ashes of the red heifer are added to spring water in the same way as the affar from the Temple floor is mixed into the spring waters like the bitter waters of the Sotah, the water is added before the ashes[110].

Verse 9 makes it clear that the ashes are to be collected by a tahor man[111]. What is most interesting about these ashes is that their kedushah[112] of the ashes are different than that of every other sacrifice. The ashes of all sacrifices are holy until they are deposited on the Mount of Olives[113]. As kedushah, the ashes of the Red Heifer are also considered hekdesh, which is an item dedicated or consecrated to the Temple. This includes both offerings and anything intended for the treasury.

If someone misuses an item endowed with hekdesh, one is guilty of transgressing meilah[114]. Since the Parah Adumah is considered Temple property [purchased using the Temple treasury], it is subject to the rules of meilah. Comparing the Parah Adumah to the chattat[115], the Torah teaches it can never become unconsecrated like Temple property[116] [Temple property loses its consecration once the meilah is paid, and the money inherits the kedushah that the stolen or misused item once had[117]. Another look at the Parah Adumah provides that unlike other hekdesh that are turned to ash on the altar: The ashes of the red heifer maintain its kedushah because the ashes are part of a mitzvah unlike the ashes of every other sacrifice which are brought out to a clean place and deposited.

The ashes are to be collected and stored in three locations. First, a third is stored near the Temple for the priests [especially for those preparing the Red heifer ashes] and the Levites who work there. A second third is stored on the Mount of Olives near the place where the Parah Adumah is burned. The third portion is stored “off site” in a secure and pure place outside the wall of the Temple courtyard.

Repairing the Separation: When one touches a dead body or is in the same house as a corpse, the person contracts corpse tumah. As an av hatumah, a purification process is required. Therefore, b. Yoma 14a takes special note to the phrase “Upon the tamei,” because this indicates that the sprinkling must be upon one who is not only unclean but is susceptible to tumah contamination. Therefore, all living things except Jews, for instance, are not susceptible to tamei contamination and are never in a state of uncleanness! Therefore to sprinkle them — or to sprinkle a Jew who is tahor — is to perform a needless work and any ash mixture remaining on the hyssop branch is disqualified and must be completely removed before used for sprinkling again.

Who can Sprinkle: Those who are qualified to gather the ashes are likewise qualified to mix the ashes into the spring water. R’ Yehuda states that the term “and he shall put” excludes a woman performing this task[118]. Torah generally uses masculine pronouns where males or females are meant, R’ Yehuda found significance in the change from plural “they” [Verse 17] to the singular “he” [Verse 18]. Since the text does not say, “Kohen,” we are able to validate any non-kohen male to perform the task[119]. Interestingly, Verse 19 states, “and the tahor one shall sprinkle, etc.,” implies [through the superfluous “tahor”] that he was tamei. the gemara teaches that a tevul yom is fit for the Parah Adumah service because he is in an impending tahor state.

R’ Yehoshua bar Abba reminds us of the baraisa that states, “The sprinkling of its waters by a woman is invalid; it is valid only by day, etc.” According to R’ Yehoshua bat Abba, the Torah’s use of the superfluous “man” disqualifies a woman and the superfluous use of “day” disqualifies nighttime sprinklings[120]. He states that the two words are to be taken literally and he further states that he’s comfortable applying this principle to the sprinkling alone.

The masculine “he” in Verse 17 does not exclude the minor, but does exclude the deaf, the mute, and the incompetent[121]. The minor is not excluded because he will eventually be considered fully competent upon reaching maturity. In support, m. Parah 12:10 states, “All are qualified to sprinkle except a tumtum[122], an androgyne[123], or a woman. A minor who has the mental competence [to perform purposefully and with intent] may be assisted by a woman and sprinkle.[124]

The High Priest can perform the ritual of Mei Chattat as well [even during his sequestered week prior to Yom Kippur]. He simply performs the avodah all day long; then toward evening, he sprinkles the ash mixture, becomes tamei, immerses in a mikveh, and becomes clean at sundown to return to the avodah the next morning[125].

When to Sprinkle: Verse 12 states that the process toward removing corpse uncleanness is to sprinkle the Av Hatumah “on the third and on the seventh day, [then] he shall become tahor.” The repetition of “the third and the seventh day” is required to let us know that we cannot wait until the eighth day, even for the passing of Shabbat[126]. Yerushalmi[127] takes Verse 18 and reverses the two events and says, that the juxtaposition of “He shall sprinkle” [the chattat water] and “he shall immerse,” [the hyssop into the water] indicates both the sprinkling of the mei chattat as well as the immersion[128] shall be performed while the sun is above the horizon as well[129]. If the immersion is not complete before the sun sets, it must be postponed until sun up the following day. The person remains tevul yom until that time.

Mei Chattat: Rava teaches a baraisa[130] that the water used to mix with the ashes of the red heifer must be living water[131]. The water must be from a living spring. Pouring water from one vessel to another disqualifies the water; therefore, once collected the water is kept in is container until used. By using the phrase “the water” [b’mayim] in Verse 18, R’ Chalafta states[132] that if one consecrated less than the amount of water needed for sprinkling and was forces to create more, he has not effected the consecration of the water nor affected the ceremony, as long as the materials [spring water and ashes] are readily available prior to sundown. However, the intent of the phrase “the water” indicates that enough water should have been consecrated from the beginning.

When the need for the Mei Chattat arises, “They shall take some of the ash and put,” indicating that the ash must be added to the water, and NOT the water added to the ash[133]. If one put ashes into the vessel and adds water afterward, the consecration is valid[134].

When dipping into the Mei Chattat, three sprigs of hyssop are used; less than this, sanctification is not achieved[135]. If these springs are too short to reach the water [as the water level has dropped from previous uses], we learn that other methods are valid when extracting the chattat water. The Mishnah in m. Parah 12:1 teaches that while the Temple stood, reed or bamboo tubes filled with the water and ashes of the Red Heifer would be sent to areas far from the Temple. When the vial approached empty, the hyssop was lengthened using a piece of thread or a spindle. Therefore, we know that creative methods for extracting the water do not invalidate the sprinkling.

R’ Yehoshua ben Kavsai understands Verse 19 literally[136]. To assure an effective purification process, says R’ Kavsai, a tahor person [singular] administers the chattat water upon one tamei person [again, singular]. R’ Kavsai believes the singularity of the verse excludes one tahor person sprinkling multiple tamei persons. If this were the case, as many people as were unclean are required to render them tahor once again. Halacha does not follow R’ Yehoshua ben Kavsai because m. Parah 12:2 states, “Persons and vessels together may be sprinkled [simultaneously] even a hundred of them.”

The tahor one who sprinkles the tamei one or ones shall wash his clothes and anyone who touches the sprinkling waters shall be tamei until evening[137]. This means that the one who sprinkles, his clothes need to be laundered in case the sprinkling splashed upon his clothes. The one touching the waters of sprinkling for any purpose other than for sprinkling must immerse and is tamei until evening. The tumah of the sprinkling water is akin to the tamei of neveilah [animal carcasses][138].

The Rope and the Kohen Gadol’s Ankle: The later Rabbis often use a Midrash that states the High Priest would tie a rope around an ankle prior to entering the Holiest Place; however, this feature is not mentioned in the Talmud or Mishnah, though it is referred to in the Zohar[139].

The idea is that if the High Priest was deemed unworthy to fulfill the Yom Kippur tasks and dropped dead, the other priests could pull him out via the rope. However, One might conclude that the rules of av hatumah contradict this as a factual event because the new high priest would have to sprinkle all the furniture of the Tabernacle [or Temple] on the third and on the seventh day to purify the objects from corpse tumah. This sprinkling would include not only the golden altar and the menorah, but also the Aron itself. However, the holiness of the Temple [or the Mishkan] supersedes the av hatumah and anyone who dies within the Mishkan or Mikdash are pulled from the area, yet the ashes of the Parah Adumah were not necessary to cleanse the holiest place[140].

Concluding Clause: Contrary to the beliefs of some, one should not interpret Numbers 19:20 as a ruling that says anyone who doesn’t submit to this ritual will be cut off [i.e., is destined to be excluded from the World to Come. “Karet” means, “cut off.” This is the eventual punishment for blatant intentional or rebellious sin. The term “from among the congregation” [see Verse 20] is unique in Torah when used in conjunction with karet[141]. Usually, “from among the people” is used. As noted in the Artscroll Talmud, “By mentioning ‘the congregation’ here, the verse implies that only one whose offering is equal to that of the congregation is liable for contamination of the temple. Excluded, therefore, is the one [the anointed Kohen], for on Yom Kippur, his offering is not equal to that of the congregation. Therefore, this verse expressly includes only the Israelite, the convert, the Levite, and the Kohen, but not the Kohen Gadol. The ordinary Kohen gains atonement from the Kohen Gadol’s Yom Kippur bull and is considered excluded from the community’s he-goat, yet the Kohanim are equal to the congregation in regard to atonement or transgressions of other commandments throughout the entire year. Therefore, they are included in regard to ‘from among the congregation.[142]

However, there are those who chose not to submit to the mei chattat[143]. Rav Adda bar Ahavah supports the assumption we see elsewhere[144] that wherever “asher” is written, it is voluntary. For instance, “And if [asher] a man becomes tamei and does not purify himself,” indicates the person voluntarily chooses to remain in a tamei state[145]. This may not possess the “eternal punishment” that one could easily assume, for the second part of Verse 20 modifies the first. The second part relates to a person defiling the Holy Place of Hashem[146]; therefore, the first should be understood as “If a person is tamei and enters the Sanctuary, his soul will be cut off from the congregation.[147]

Additionally, the phrase “he shall be tamei” is needed in Verse 13 [in support of b. Makkot 8a] because a tevul yom[148] is included as one who incurs the karet penalty if they enter the Temple. “He shall be tamei,” means that he is still tamei even though everything is accomplished except for the close of the day[149].

On the other hand, however, one who knowingly becomes contaminated from a corpse and refuses to purify oneself is cut off from participation in the Moadim [the festive times] at the Sanctuary. This only makes sense, considering the av hatumah is segregated from the Sanctuary until the seven-day purification process is complete. If the separation process is never completed [yet can be performed], the person is forever cut off. They are sill alive and they are still Jews; they only have limited access to the other members of the congregation, but they are highly limited in where they can go. They are simply cut off from the centrality of the Jewish community: The Temple.

I’m sure you noticed that as I conclude this discussion, we are no closer to understanding the “whys” of this Chukkat. The Red Heifer remains an unknowable command, though we can, at least, claim to understand a bit more the finer actions taken by the Kohen and the individuals involved. We can look down at the paws of the fox and we can now identify that the discoloration on her feet is indeed dust, but at least that’s saying something[150]


The Aramaic Bible Volume 4: Targum Neofiti 1 and Pseudo-Jonathan Numbers, Martin McNamara M.S.C., ©1995 The Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN

The Aramaic Bible Volume 8: Targum Onqelos to Leviticus and Numbers, Bernard Grossfeld, ©1988 The Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN

Artscroll® Schottenstein Talmud Bavli, Tractates Arachin, Avodah Zarah, Bechorot, Chullin, Gittin, Horayot, Kiddushin, Makkot, Megillah, Menachot, Nazir, Niddah, Pesachim, Sanhedrin, Shabbat, Shekalim, Shevuot, Sotah, Sukkah, Temurah, Terumot, Yevamot, Yoma, Zevachim, ©1997-2010, Mesorah Publications Ltd, Brooklyn NY

Artscroll® Schottenstein Talmud Yerushalmi, Tractates Demai, Megillah, Pesachim, and Yoma, ©2005-2012, Mesorah Publications Ltd, Brooklyn NY

The Complete Metsudah Siddur, Rabbi Avrohom Davis, ©1990 Metsudah Publications, New York NY

The Daily Bible in Chronological Order 365 Readings [NIV], F. LaGard Smith, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR

The Encyclopedia of the Dead Sea Scrolls [Two Volumes], Lawrence H Schiffman & James C VanderKam, ©2000 Oxford University Press, New York NY

The Guide for the Perplexed, Moses Maimonides, ©2004 Barnes & Noble, New York NY

HaMafteach, Talmud Bavli Indexed Reference Guide, The R’ Mordechai [Marcus] Retter Z’’L Edition, Daniel Retter, ©2011, 2012 Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem/Nanuet NY

The Jewish Eclyclopedia Complete in Twelve Volumes, ©1904 , Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York NY

Mekilta de-Rabbi Ishmael [The Schiff Library of Jewish Classics, Jacob Z Lauterback PhD, ©1933, 1949 The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia PA

Mishnayoth, Philip Blackman F.C.S., ©1977 Judaica Press LTD., New York NY

The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, James Strong LLD S.T.D., ©1996, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville TN

Scripture as Logos: Rabbi Ishmael and the Origins of Midrash, Azzan Yadin

Tanach on the Daf [Three Volumes], Rabbi Dovid Montrose, ©2010, 2012 Feldheim Publishers, Jerusalem/Nanuet NY

The Works of Josephus Complete and Unabridged, Translated by William Whiston, ©1987, 2003, Hendrickson Publishers Inc., Peabody MA

The Zohar An English Translation [Five Volumes], Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon, ©1984 Soncino Press, Brooklyn NY

[1] The Daily Bible in Chronological Order 365 Readings [NIV], F. LaGard Smith, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene OR 97402, ISBN 1-56507-524-2; Smith uses the following categories: [1] Religious & Ceremonial, [2] Laws of Government, [3] Laws of Special Crimes, [4] Personal Rights & Remedies, [5] Marriage, Divorce, & Sexual Relations, [6] Health & Dietary Laws, [7] General Welfare Laws, [8] Roles of Warfare, [9] Responsibilities Under the Law

[2] 2 Timothy 2:15

[3] R’ Simlai [see b. Makkot 23b]; see also Shemot Rabbah 33:7, Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15-6, 18:21, and b. Yevamot 47b

[4] b. Makkot 23b compares the 365 negative commands to the number of solar days and the 248 negative commands to the number of body parts in the human mortal frame [see m. Ohalot 1:8]. Targum Jonathan 1:27, on the other hand, corresponds the negative commands to the number of veins and nerves.

[5] b. Yoma 43b

[6] Gezirah Shavah [equivalence of terms], the second rule of Hillel, is a comparison between two texts when a term, word, or root is shared between two different portions of the Biblical text. For instance, both Judges 15:3 and I Samuel 1:10 use the phrase, “no razor shall touch his head,” to show that both Samson and Samuel were under the laws of Nezirus [see Numbers 6]. Seeing the possibility of abuse, Rabbi Ishmael limits the use of the gezirah shavah by means of mufneh lehaqish, which states that at least one of the elements used in an analogy must be shown to be “empty” of meaning, and freed from interpretation before it can be used in a gezirah shavah [see Mekilta Nezikin 1:31-43; Scripture as Logos: Rabbi Ishmael and the Origins of Midrash, Azzan Yadin]

[7] b. Chullin 24a, b. Yoma 42b

[8] Numbers 6:21

[9] Leviticus 7:11

[10] Leviticus 14:2

[11] Leviticus 16:29

[12] Leviticus 7:37

[13] Leviticus 6:7, 6:11

[14] Leviticus 24:9

[15] b. Yoma 42b

[16] The family of Korach stood away from him in his rebellion; his descendants wrote several of the Psalms

[17] No mitzvah shows true love better than caring for the dead, for this is an act of kindness that cannot be repaid. Every morning in our prayers, we are reminded that escorting the dead is fully paid in the World to Come [see also m. Peah 1:1 and b. Shabbat 127a].

[18] b. Avodah Zarah 37b

[19] b. Arachin 3a

[20] b. Nazir 53b

[21] b. Avodah Zarah 37b

[22] b. Niddah 44a

[23] Mei Chattat [spring water into which the ashes were placed prior to sprinkling into a person who contracted corpse uncleanness]

[24] b. Nazir 61b

[25] A woman during her menstrual cycle

[26] Separation incurred from sheretz [see Lev 11:29-30] is banished from one camp; a zav [a man who emits a specific type of seminal emission] is banished from two camps [Shekinah and Levite]; a metzorah [persons who contracts tzaraat] is banished from all three camps [see b. Pesachim 68a].

[27] b. Chullin 72a

[28] b. Chullin 128b

[29] b. Bechorot 45a, b. Chullin 128b

[30] Tumah Ohel: corpse uncleanness via a roof

[31] b. Niddah 55a

[32] b. Chullin 121a

[33] While Numbers 19:14 is used to convey the concept of Tumah Ohel, Reish Lakish took this verse to illustrate the importance of Torah Study. The words of Torah are retained only by he who kills himself over Torah, as it is written, “This is the Torah of a man who dies in a tent.” The Rabbis say, “Grind yourself over words of Torah,” that is, exert yourself to your utmost ability to acquire Torah[33]. In solidarity, Tractate Gittin quotes Reish Lakish who homiletically interprets, “This is the law when a man dies in a tent,” to mean, “This is the way to retain the torah: when a man dies in a tent of study.[33]”

[34] b. Shabbat 28a

[35] b. Sukkah 21a

[36] b. Sanhedrin 4a

[37] This is an unusual spelling for “souls,” [nephashot], therefore it’s viewed in this case as a singular word.

[38] Several instances of “adam” referring to idolaters can be found but the generality of the rule stands. For instance, Numbers 19:14 and Jonah 4:11 counts idolaters as “adam,” but this is on account of the juxtaposition of animals. See b. Yevamot 61a for an explanation why the apparent dead of Midianites in Numbers 31:19 references “adam.”

[39] b. Yevamot 61a

[40] A kav is equal to four logs, which is in turn, equivalent in volume to approximately six eggs. Therefore, a quarter-kav is a log.

[41] b. Nazir 53b

[42] b. Chullin 72a

[43] b. Chullin 25a, y. Pesachim 8b [1:7]

[44] y. Pesachim 23b-24a [3:2]

[45] A secured cover includes [for example] Mason® Brand jar lids [and the like], pressure fit, and lipped lids. An insecure lid is one that is partially covering the opening of the container, allowing a free-exchange of air between the enclosed space and the air around the container.

[46] b. Shabbat 84a-b

[47] b. Shabbat 84a creates a kal vachomer argument, saying that if an item [a reed sleeping mat is provided as an example] is able to contract zav tumah [uncleanness from an emission], which is a lesser tumah, how much more it is susceptible to corpse tumah. b. Shabbat 14b [similar to b. Shabbat 101b] considers a metal lamp as contracting corpse tumah is touched by an av hatumah or if subjected tumah ohel because it, too, is a utensil.

[48] b. Shabbat 101b, b. Chullin 25a

[49] b. Pesachim 19b

[50] b. Shabbat 16b

[51] b. Avodah Zarah 23a

[52] b. Avodah Zarah 23b

[53] A heifer is rendered ineligible to be an Eglah Arufah once it hauls a load; the heifer is ineligible to be a Parah Adumah once a load is placed upon it, which is a greater limitation

[54] b. Avodah Zarah 23b-24a

[55] Dama was a righteous gentile who did not disturb his father’s sleep – even for a six-hundred [or an eight-hundred] thousand dinar profit on a sale of stones for the Kohen Gadol’s ephod

[56] This story occurred during the Second Temple period because the Parah Adumah service was never performed during the First Temple because the ashes collected during Moshe’s era lasted until the destruction of the First Temple.

[57] See b. Sotah 44b-49b for various discussions on the Eglah Arufah [the ninth chapter of b. Sotah is called Eglah Arufah].

[58] Numbers 19:9, b. Niddah 9a

[59] b. Chullin 11a

[60] b. Yoma 42b

[61] R’ Yose implies that “and she shall be brought forth” implies “alone.”

[62] b. Shabbat 52a

[63] In reference to the Yom Kippur Service

[64] b. Yoma 68a, b. Zevachim 39a, b. Menachot 27a

[65] This can be considered misleading, for the he-goat for Azazel is thrown from a cliff, though this is not considered a sacrifice.

[66] b. Zevachim 112b

[67] This passage details the original avodah in which Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the status of Kohanim.

[68] B. Yoma 2a

[69] y. Yoma 1a-1b [1:1]

[70] Whenever the Talmud or the Mishnah uses “Elazar” as oppose to “Aaron” or “the Kohen Gadol,” it is in reference to the Deputy Kohen Gadol who is the Heir Apparent to the position of High Priest. It usually is the firstborn son of the High Priest, or it is the son with the greatest serving heart to take on the demanding position.

[71] b. Menachot 6b, b. Menachot19a

[72] The Gemara states that three aspects of the service of the Red Heifer are essential, which means that a missing component [be it a duty or a physical item] prevent the remaining parts from being effective. The three components are found in two sets. The first set: [1] the ashes of the red heifer are [2] dissolved into a vessel containing spring water, and this concoction is then [3] sprinkled upon the contaminated object or person. The second set is that the red heifer is burned with [a] cedar wood, [b] hyssop, and [c] a string of crimson wool. Further, the Mishnah mentions the seven sprinklings of the Parah Adumah as being essential [b. Menachot 27a].

[73] Due to the use of “this is the command of the torah,” the Gemara in y. Yoma 32a [3:7] state we cannot teach that the sprinkling or the slaughtering can be performed by a woman and remain valid. The text says “he” and “his” singularly; therefore, we cannot use any method of exegesis to render an understanding that permits the use of “she” or “her.”

[74] The rule of attentiveness does not apply to the cedar wood, hyssop, or the scarlet wool because they are not part of the cow [b. Yoma 42b].

[75] b. Yoma 42a

[76] y. Yoma 23a [3:7]

[77] b. Yoma 43a

[78] The Mishnah on b. Chullin 23b contrasts the methods of slaughter between the Parah Adumah and the Eglah Arufah. What is valid for one is invalid for the other. Parah Adumah is valid if killed through shechitah but is invalid if killed through arufah [breaking the neck]; the Eglah Arufah is valid if killed through arufah but is invalid if killed through shechitah.

[79] y. Terumot 58b [6:1]

[80] Sacrificial meat must be consumed before sunrise otherwise the meat conveys tumah. However, if its blood is not splashed, the meat does not convey tumah. Similarly, when the Parah Adumah is slaughtered, if a more appropriate specimen is available, the animal can be redeemed [this does not mean there was anything wrong with the first, only that the second was a more pristine animal]. According to R’ Shimon, “anything that stands to be redeemed is legally considered redeemed already.” Therefore, the meat of the slaughtered Parah Adumah, while normally considered forbidden for benefit, is considered fit for consumption because it can be redeemed [b. Menachot 101b]. In an unredeemed state, the Parah Adumah is a chattat [sin] sacrifice in which a portion of its meat is not consumed.

[81] b. Menachot 7b, b. Zevachim 2a

[82] b. Chullin 32a

[83] b. Chullin 31b

[84] b. Zevachim 93b

[85] In y. Pesachim 43a [5:6], R’ Yochanan bar Madya states that “thrown” indicates that the blood must be thrown, flecked, or otherwise tossed as opposed to being poured.

[86] b. Yoma 43a, y. Yoma 23a [3:7]

[87] b. Zevachim 113a

[88] If one becomes tamei in the courtyard of the Temple, he is liable for karet [being cut off] if he does not leave immediately. That person must carefully not to touch anything or anyone and leave in the greatest of haste. In a similar manner, when the sons of Aaron perished by offering strange fire to Hashem [Leviticus 10:4-5], Mishael and Elzaphan carried the two men away from the sanctuary and carried them to a place outside the camp. Outside the camp is a euphemism for being considered unclean and the men, because they were in direct contact with a corpse, contracted av hatumah and they were considered unclean until the seven-day purification process was complete [See b. Shevuot See 14a and 16b].

[89] b. Menachot 27b

[90] The Ark of the Covenant

[91] m. Parah 3:2

[92] Abaye says that “He wipes his hand on the body of the cow,” indicates that when he is finished he wipes the remainder off his hand, thus the blood remaining on the Kohen’s finger from one sprinkling is suitable for another. However, Rava wisely disagrees. He says the passage indicates that the hand is wiped at the end of the sprinkling, but the finger is wiped after each sprinkling [b. Zevachim 93b].

[93] b. Menachot 7b

[94] A person who suffered the loss of a close relative that very day

[95] b. Zevachim 17b

[96] A person one who is tamei from an emission who has not begun the purification process

[97] A person who has immersed but must wait until the close of the day to return to a state of being tahor

[98] b. Yoma 42a

[99] b. Yoma 42b; By using “need not,” Ulla leaves open the ability of the deputy Kohen Gadol to do the actual slaughtering.

[100] b. Yoma 2a

[101] y. Yoma 47a [6:6]

[102] Interestingly, crimson woolen strips are required for the purification of the Metzorah [the tzaraat or leprosy sufferer] and in Yom Kippur service as well. For Yom Hakippurim, a piece is tied to the horn of the dispatched he-goat [for Azazel] and around the neck of the he-goat for Hashem [the one sacrificed at the altar].

[103] b. Yoma 41b

[104] b. Yoma 42a

[105] Numbers 19:6

[106] b. Yoma 41b

[107] b. Yoma 43a

[108] b. Chullin 88b

[109] The unfaithful wife

[110] b. Sotah 16b, b. Temurah 20a

[111] b. Yoma 43a [The Torah did not need to add the superfluous “tahor” to remind us that a tamei person cannot fulfill this task; the Rabbis use this to include anyone who is tahor, including a woman]

[112] Holiness

[113] The reason the ashes lose kedushah upon dumping is because the Torah provides us a series of commands up to an including dumping the ashes. Therefore, the ashes remain holy until the commands “run out,” so to speak. The ashes of the Parah Adumah, on the other hand, are not “finished” once they are collected; the Torah provides for their collection, storage, and further use.  This means the ashes remain “holy” until after their ultimate use as Mei Chattat [the waters of the Parah Adumah].

[114] Unlawfully benefiting from Temple property or consecrated items. As penalty, the person must bring an Asham [guilt offering] and pay one-fifth additional cost.

[115] Sin offering

[116] b. Shekalim 21a [because the Parah Adumah is considered a chattat, it is subject to meilah but the ashes are not subject to meilah]

[117] b. Menachot 51b

[118] b. Yoma 43a

[119] y. Yoma 23b [3:7]

[120] b. Yoma 42b, y. Megillah 25b [2:5], b. Megillah 20a

[121] While this is often considered a negative term, the Talmud uses it as a “legal” term to indicate someone who does not have the legal status to make a decision for themselves. A mentally retarded person, a minor, or a person of significant mental instability is incapable of making significant decisions for themselves and are in need to outside influence or care. These are the persons to which the Talmud indicates. Because a mute or a deaf person is not able to communicate with both ears and mouth, they are not accountable to Torah, not because Torah deems the incapable, but out of kindness because so much more effort to communicated is required on these people.

[122] a person whose gender cannot be determined by physical examination

[123] a person possessing both sets of genitalia; while this term has been coopted by transgender organizations as a term for those possessing one sex but identifying more strongly with the opposite sex, this is not the intent of the Talmud

[124] b. Yoma 43a

[125] b. Yoma 14b

[126] b. Kiddushin 62a

[127] The Jerusalem Talmud

[128] A Gezirah shavah using “immerse” indicates that the mikveh shall be performed during daylight hors as well.

[129] y. Megillah 25b [32:5]; b. Megillah 20a

[130] b. Pesachim 34b

[131] Mayim Chaim

[132] b. Zevachim 93b

[133] b. Sukkah 37b; b. Sotah 16b

[134] b. Yevamot 72b-73a

[135] b. Menachot 7b; b. Sukkah 13a, m. Parah 11:9

[136] y. Demai 31a [3:4]

[137] The Torah uses the seemingly superfluous phrase, “upon the tamei one” in Verse 19 to alert us that if the Mei Chattat is sprinkled on a tamei person, they are rendered tahor at sundown. However, if the waters are sprinkled upon a tahor person, they are instantly rendered tamei as if contaminated by tumah neveilah [uncleanness from a dead animal].

[138] b. Yoma 14a

[139] Zohar Acherei Mot 67a

[140] Leviticus 10:1-5 details the unfortunate event of Nadav and Avihu entering the Holiest Place to offer incense. Their death did not halt the avodah. It continues in spite of the tragedy. Mishael and Elzaphan entered the Holiest Place [they were safe because they did not enter needlessly, see Ramban’s commentary on Vayikra 10:4] and carried the bodies out in their tonics [Nadav’s and Avihu’s, that is].

[141] b. Horayot 9b

[142] An interesting side note is that only those who are able to be cleansed can be deemed unclean and only those who can be labeled tamei can be deemed purified or tahor [see Nazir 61b on 19:19]. We know this because the verse states, “but the man who will be tamei and will not purify himself.” Similarly, 19:9 states, “for the Children of Israel.”

[143] Numbers 19:0

[144] b. Shevuot 6b

[145] b. Makkot 8a

[146] b. Shevuot 16b

[147] Page 993, The Gutnick Edition Chumash, Chaim Miller, Kol Menachem, Brooklyn NY 11213, ISBN 1-934152-01-3

[148] a person who has immersed to rid him or herself of tumah but must wait until sundown to remove the vestige of tumah that remains

[149] b. Makkot 8b

[150] For those with access, I suggest turning to page 43a3 of Artscroll’s Talmud Bavli Tractate Yoma [Volume 13] for a great chart illustrating Ulla’s interpretation and understanding of Numbers chapter 19.

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