Re: Parah Adumah (the red cow)

Russell Hendel (rhendel@mcs.drexel.edu)
Mon, 3 Mar 1997 23:03:11 -0500

Denise Geller wrote:
>Please comment on the commandment which King Solomon didn't understand, the
>one regarding the ashes of the red heifer.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch gives a complete straightforward explanation of
this in his commentary on Numbers 19. Before making 3 supportive comments I
will briefly explain Rav Hirsch's 50 page commentary:
Rav Hirsch claims that the Parah Adumah teaches us that:
"All of us have a right to be bullish (=Parah) in our life aspirations. Our
consequent passsions (=complete redness) can be prevented from leading to
sin (Chatath=sin offering) if we direct our life force (=blood) towards
spiritual acts(=7 sprinkles towards temple). When a person partially loses
his drive to produce in life because of his exposure to death(=Toomath
Mayth) we cure him (=Taharah) by reminding him (=sprinkling) that he is
both spiritual(=water) and animal(=Parah ashes)"

Rav Hirsch continues to show how the Parah Adumah deals with our quest for
freedom. I recommend reading the 50 pages in detail. Let me now make 3
further supportive points:

1) Rav Hirsch did not INVENT his symbolic methods. Rather they are based on
his 100 page essay "Towards a Groundline of Jewish Symbolism" in which he
asks, "Can we interpret mitzvoth symbolically?", "Should we?", "If yes how
are we to do it?" So they are objective.

2) If Parah Adumah has a reason why is it called a Chok which is
erroneously translated as "without reason"? Actually, "Chok" simply means
"deep reason". Let me give an analogy: "Don't play in the snow without a
coat" has a transparent reason (since I will probably get sick immediately)
while "Don't eat salt because you might get high blood pressure" has a
"deep reason" (ie. its consequences are not immediate but DO come).

3) Finally to quote Rav Yonah on Pirkey avoth ("we do not understand the
suffering of the righteous") "We of course know the reason people suffer
(because of their sins) but it is not as easily acceptable as most
reasons." I would say the same thing here for King Solomon.

Russell Jay Hendel, Ph.d; ASA;RHendel @ Mcs Drexel Edu