Para Aduma – the Red Heifer


[1] Maimonides, Book of Commandments, Positive Commandments, Commandment # 113

[2] Mishnah Temurah (2:1); Mishnah Pesachim 7:4-6; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Admission into the Sanctuary 4: 9-12

[3] Sifrei Chukkat, paragraph 123: “Red, perfect - Complete redness”; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Red Heifer 1:2

[4] Four colors are mentioned in the Bible and in the words of our Sages: Red, black, green and white. The “brown” is written only in Genesis 30:32 and there is a dispute regarding identification of this color. See the commentaries of Rashi, Nachmanides and Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch. “Blue” in the Torah is not a shade of color, rather a dying agent. So too, “yellow”, which is mentioned only a couple of times (Leviticus 13:30 and Ezra 8:27) - for its interpretation see the commentaries of Eben Ezra and Ohr Hachayim on Leviticus, ibid. Other shades of color were included in the words of our Sages as belonging to one of the four categories of color. Along these lines, the ‘Biur Halacha’ rules (section 33:63, beginning words “the strips”) that the color blue is an acceptable color for tefillin because it is in the category of black. Also see, the Tosfot on Talmud Sukka 31b - beginning words “The green”, regarding the wide scope of the shades of green. In regard to the “red”, it is written in regard to the lentil stew that Jacob prepared (Genesis 25:30), “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down”, as it is known that the color of lentils is orange. Additionally, in Zechariah 1:8 & 6:2 there is mention of a “red horse”. It appears to be that the reference is to a brownish-red color.
Furthermore, there is a reference in the Talmud to red blood which is described as the color of “watered-down earth”, as found in a certain valley in the Galilee. (Niddah 19a; Rashi beginning words “her blood”; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Forbidden Intercourse 5:8). From all of the above we conclude that the color “red”, as written in the sources, includes other shades of this category, which, in our time, are identified as colors of various names.

[5] Maimonides, ibid. 1:2; Minah Parah 2:5, according to the first opinion presented there. Other stricter and more lenient opinions are presented in the text.

[6] As understood according to Maimonides ibid. 1:4-5. And in the Yalkut Shimoni, Chukkat, 759: "Rabbi Akiva says: Even if she [the red heifer] has many [hairs of other colors] - it is kosher, as long as they are removed. However, if they [the hairs of other colors] grow from one hair follicle - the heifer is invalid because removing them would cause baldness."

[7] Mishnah Parah 2:2; Talmud Bechorot 44a; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Red Heifer, 1:5; and commentary of the Kesef Mishneh.

[8] Numbers 19:2; Mishnah Parah 2:3; Talmud Sotah 46a; Maimonides, ibid, 1:7

[9] Mishnah Parah 2:4; Maimonides, ibid. 1:7, see the commentary of Ra’avad there. Also see the commentary of Maimonides on the Mishnah ibid. relating to the fact that the Sages compare the laws of a red heifer to the laws pertaining to an ‘egla arufa’ (see Deuteronomy chapter 21), as both must fulfill the requirement "which has never been worked”. Laws regarding the red heifer were concluded from it.

[10] Mishnah Parah 2:3; Maimonides, ibid.

[11] Numbers 19:2; Mishnah Parah 2:3; Maimonides, ibid. 1:7

[12] Talmud Chullin 11a; Maimonides, ibid. 1:7

[13] Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Red Heifer 1:1, which is in accordance with the opinion of the Sages in Mishnah Parah 1:1. However, according to the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer (ibid.) the red heifer is permissible to use already in its second year.

[14] Maimonides, ibid. (according to the opinion of Rabbi Meir in Mishnah Parah, ibid. According to his opinion, Rabbi Meir explains their words and does not dispute this point.)

[15] Mishnah Shekalim 4:2; Talmud Yoma 3b: “‘And they will take to you’ - from community property”; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Red Heifer 1:1.

[16] Mishnah Parah 2:1. According to the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer - we do not purchase a red heifer from gentiles for fear of her becoming invalid to be used for this commandment by his hand, however the law is not so, in accordance with the opinion of the Sages); Maimonides, ibid. 1:7.

[17] Maimonides, ibid. In his opinion, following the Sifrei Zuta in Deuteronomy 19:2, this is learned from "And they will take a cow to you", meaning a mature cow. However, according to the opinion of Ra’avad, this law is learned from the rule that offerings are not sanctified before they become of eligible age.

[18] The words of Sifrei Zuta, ibid.: “And they would guard her until she reached three years of age and then they would return and purchase her from the funds of the Temple Treasury."

[19] Talmud Shavuot 11b, and contrary to the law in offerings, that are not redeemed if they died. Maimonides, ibid. 1:8

[20] Talmud Chullin 11a; as well as a reference in Talmud Avodah Zara 23b, Tosfot’s comment, ibid. starting with the words: “except from now on”; And the commentary of the Rush (Rabbi Shimshon of Shantz) on Mishnah Parah 2:3.

[21] Numbers 19:3

[22] Talmud Zevachim, 113a

[23] Numbers 19:4

[24] Mishnah Parah 3:6; According to measurements and other signs, it is presumed that the exact location is in the courtyard of the Dominus Flevit church today (Rabbi Yonatan Adler, 'Techumin' volume #22 pp. 537-542).

[25] Mishnah Middot 2:4

[26] Mishnah Middot 1:3; Mishnah Para 3:6

[27] Numbers 19:3

[28] Mishnah Parah 4:1; Tosefta on Mishnah Parah 4:6; Talmud Yoma 42b, and see book ‘Sha’arei Heichal’, ibid. section 95; Maimonides, ibid. 1:11 - in which he stated that a regular kohen (lay priest) is qualified for the task, while Nachmonides disagrees (Numbers ibid.)

[29] Mishnah Parah 3:5; and the book ‘Sha’arei Heichal’ on Tractate Yoma, pp. 211

[30] Talmud Yoma 42b; and reference to the book ‘Sha’arei Heichal’, ibid. pp. 210

[31] The comment of the Tosfot on Talmud Yoma 43a (Beginning words: “According to Rav”); and reference to the book ‘Sha’arei Heichal’ ibid., pp. 211

[32] Mishnah Parah 4:1; Maimonides, ibid. 1:12; and see the commentary of ‘Mishneh Lamelech’ ibid., discussing whether the reference is to ordinary regular kohen (lay priest) garments, in which the sash is embroidered in blue, purple and crimson, or to white garments as such worn by the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement).

[33] Mishnah Parah 4:1 - in accordance with Tanna Kama (the first, unnamed speaker); and Rabbi Eliezer permits without ‘kiddush’; Talmud Zevachim 20b, and there is a dispute about the place of ‘kiddush’ and whether it is necessary to specifically use a sanctified vessel; and reference to the book ‘Sha’arei Heichal’ on Zevachim, section 41

[34] Mishnah Parah 4:4; Maimonides, ibid. 4:17

[35] Numbers 19:3-6; Mishnah Parah 3:7-11; Maimonides, ibid., chapter 3

[36] Mishnah Parah, 3:11; Maimonides, ibid., 3:3-4

[37] Sifrei Zuta on Numbers 19:9

[38] Rashi’s commentary on Numbers 19:9; Tosfot Yom Tov and Tiferet Yisrael’s commentary on Mishnah Parah 3:11

[39] Maimonides ibid.; Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Red Heifer 3:4, in accordance to his opinion in the Tosefta, according to which he states that the ashes of the red heifer were distributed among the priestly shifts and kept in designated places in the Holy Temple, and not distributed among all the cities of the kohanim (priests).

[40] Numbers 19:17-19

[41] Mishnah Chagigah 2:6-7; Mishnah Parah 10:1-2; Maimonides, ibid. 13:1-2

[42] Mishnah Parah 3:7, Tosefta ibid. 3:7-8

[43] On the Temple Mount itself there is no such concern, since there were open spaces at its base, meaning, it was built “arches upon arches” which would block the impurity from ascending.

[43a] Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Red Heifer 2:4-5.

[44] Mishnah Parah 3:2-3; Maimonides, ibid. 2:7; The Tosefta on Mishnah Parah 3:5 raises the dispute whether these actions should be performed with each red heifer or if they were only done for the first red heifer after returning from the Babylonian exile - since they did not have ashes of previous red heifers with which to purify those that were to prepare the new red heifer.

[45] Numbers 19:7-10; Maimonides, ibid. 5:1

[46] Job 14:4

[47] Bamidbar (Numbers) Rabbah 19:1

[48] Mishnah Parah 3:5

[49] See ‘Sha’rei Heichal’ on Tractate Pesachim, pp. 196 - 197

[50] Sifrei Chukkat paragraph, 123; Tosefta on Mishnah Parah 3:8, as well as in 4:7. It is probably referring to an attempt that was not successful, after which the red heifer was prepared by Chanamel HaMitzri or Yishmael ben Piavi, see ‘Chesdei David’ ibid. and also ‘Tanaim and Amoraim’, entry on Yehoshua ben Gamla.

[51] Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Red Heifer, 3:4

[52] ‘Igeret Hashmad’; See Wikimikdash, entry: ‘Mikdash and Mashiach’. The words of Maimonides “the red heifer will be prepared by the King Messsiah” have no foundation in the teachings of the Sages, nor in the Mishnah Parah 3:5. Maimonides did not write that statement as a ruling, rather from a point of view of personal belief that the Messiah will speedily come and the red heifer will be prepared in his time.

[53] Tosfot HaRosh (Rabbeinu Asher) on Talmud Brachot 13a; Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim, 685:7; and see ‘Magen Avraham’, beginning of section 685

[54] ‘Meshech Chochma’ on Numbers 19:20

[55] Bamidbar (Numbers) Rabbah 19:3

[56] Ecclesiastes 7:23

[57] See Rabbeinu Bechayei on Numbers 19:2, who states that the numerical value in Hebrew of the words “it eludes” is the same as the numerical value of “red heifer”.

[58] Bamidbar (Numbers) Rabbah, Chukkat, section 19

[59] Bamidbar (Numbers) Rabbah, 19:8; with language changes

[60] Bamidbar (Numbers) Rabbah, ibid; Talmud Moed Katan 25a: “The red heifer atones”

[61] According to the ‘Akeidat Yitzchak’, Chukat, chapter 97 and other commentators. Also see the commentary of Rabbi samson Raphael Hirsch on Numbers 19:22.

[62] Mishnah Mikvaot 8:1

[63] Rashi on Talmud Zevachim 113a - beginning words “a greater stringency was practiced for the preparation of the red heifer”; See ‘Sha’arei Heichal’ on Talmud Zevachim, section 294.

[64] See the commentary of ‘Mishneh Lamelech’ on Maimonides. Mishneh Torah, Defilement by a Corpse 11:1

      1. Primary sources:

Torah – Numbers 19:1-22

Mishnah - Tractate Parah

Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Book of Purity, Laws of the Red Heifer

      1. The sprinkling of the water which contains ashes of a red heifer. A family in the purification process.
      2. The burning of the red heifer on the Mount of Anointment across from the site of the Holy Temple, in the presence of a large crowd.
      3. Crushing the ashes of the red heifer for the purpose of purification – kohanim crush the ashes of the red heifer after it is burned.
      4. A red heifer in Kfar Hassidim. The birth of this cow sparked a wave of interest in restoring the commandment of performing the red heifer ceremony in the Land of Israel. Many Rabbis of Jerusalem and other cities came to the site to see it and learn the laws pertaining to the actual preparation of the ashes of a red heifer.
      5. The supposed location where the burning of the red heifer takes place on the Mount of Olives.
      6. The picture shows Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, of blessed memory, during his visit to the cattle breeding farm in Moshava Bat Shlomo. To his left, Rabbi Yehuda Mutzafi and Rabbi Menachem Burshtein, and, to his right, the farmer Mr. Danny Greenberg and Rabbi Israel Ariel.
      7.       A courtyard in Jerusalem for raising children in purity. The painting shows a courtyard carved into bedrock. The kohanim (priestly) children who grew up in such a courtyard were the ones who were involved in the preparation of a new red heifer.