Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshas Chukas 5770- Parah Adumah

Question
1) What is so unusual about the Parah Adumah that other nations would mock the Jews?
2) Why was it specified that Eleazar must be the one to offer the sacrifice?

This weeks parsha; Parshas Chukat Bamidbar (Numbers) 19:1-22:1

ANSWER

The answer frequently given to this is that it makes no logical sense since it makes the pure impure, and the impure pure. However, Ramban has a difficulty with this answer as none of the sacrifices for the sake of purification make much sense. How does the sacrifice of a zav or a woman after childbirth remove the impurity? Perhaps the idea of a mikveh makes sense in that you could say that the water “washes” away the impurity- but the mikveh is insufficient without a sacrifice- and there is no logical connection between the removel of impurity and a sacrifice. so why is it this sacrifice where it is emphasised it is a “chok”? Why is it with this sacrifice that we state that the nations of the world would come to mock?

There is an interesting facet to this sacrifice- it is central to Judaism. It is the only means for the nation to remain pure over an extended periond of time- and in the modern era we are all assumed to be impure because of Tumas Meis since we have not been able to purify ourselve for so long. Considering its importance, one would expect it to be mandated to be offere in the most important place- on the inner alter- and f not there, at least within the Temple or Mishkan. Yet, for all its importance, it does not take place in eithr of those places- but outside of the Temple and the Mishkan! Outside- where everyone can see it, where everyone can question it, and thus why this sacrifice unlike the other Tohoros sacrifices which re within the walls of the Temple, will be visible and open to mockery.

One would also expect that due to its importance, it would be assigned to the most important figure- the Kohen Gadol. However, while the Kohen Gadol can offer the sacrifice- it is not restricted to him. Any Kohen can offer the sacrifice and we learn this from the assigning of Eleazar to perform this very first sacrifice of a parah adumah. If so, then why not Itamar? He would be a better example of any Kohen being allowed to do it? The answer is simple- out of respect for Eleazar and not to slight his honour, G-d ordered that it be him and not his younger brother.

Ramban also brings additional reasons why Aharon was not the one to offer the parah Adumah:
1) because of his involvement with the golden calf, it would not be appropriate for him to be associated with the parah adumah
2) as the first annointed Kohen Gadol, G-d did not want him to perform sacrifices in an area of lesser sanctity than the Mishkan, and thus assigned this sacrifice to another as a sign of the holiness of Aharon

Note: as always discussion, comments, questions are welcome

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June 15, 2010 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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