Introduction to Hilchos Parah Adummah

Included in this text are two positive commandments. They comprise the following:
1) the laws of the red heifer;
2) the laws of the impurity and purity brought about by the water used for the sprinkling of its ashes.

These mitzvot are explained in the ensuing chapters.

הלכות פרה אדומה

יש בכללן שתי מצות עשה וזהו פרטן:
(א) דין פרה אדומה
(ב) דין טומאת מי נדה וטהרתן
וביאור מצות אלו בפרקים אלו:


The commandment involving the red heifer is to offer such an animal in its third or fourth year of life. If it is older, it is acceptable, but we do not wait for it to age longer, lest its hairs become black.

The Jewish community does not purchase a calf and raise it, for Numbers 19:2 states: "And you shall take unto yourselves a heifer," i.e., a heifer, not a calf. If only a calf was found, a price is established for it and it should remain in its owner's possession until it matures and becomes a cow. It should be purchased with money from the Temple treasury.


מִצְוַת פָּרָה אֲדֻמָּה שֶׁתִּהְיֶה בַּת שָׁלֹשׁ שָׁנִים אוֹ בַּת אַרְבַּע. וְאִם הָיְתָה זְקֵנָה כְּשֵׁרָה אֶלָּא שֶׁאֵין מַמְתִּינִין לָהּ שֶׁמָּא תַּשְׁחִיר וְתִפָּסֵל. וְאֵין לוֹקְחִין עֶגְלָה וּמְגַדְּלִין אוֹתָהּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יט ב) "וְיִקְחוּ אֵלֶיךָ פָרָה" וְלֹא עֶגְלָה. לֹא מָצְאוּ אֶלָּא עֶגְלָה פּוֹסְקִין עָלֶיהָ דָּמִים וְתִהְיֶה אֵצֶל בְּעָלֶיהָ עַד שֶׁתַּגְדִּיל וְתֵעָשֶׂה פָּרָה. וְלוֹקְחִין אוֹתָהּ מִתְּרוּמַת הַלִּשְׁכָּה:


The Torah's description of this heifer as "perfect" means "perfectly red," not perfect in stature. Even if it is dwarfsize, it is acceptable, as is the law regarding other sacrifices. If it had two white hairs or black hairs growing from one follicle or from two cavities and they are lying on top of each other, it is unacceptable.


זֶה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בַּתּוֹרָה (במדבר יט ב) "תְּמִימָה" תְּמִימַת אַדְמִימוּת לֹא תְּמִימַת קוֹמָה אֶלָּא אִם הָיְתָה נַנָּסָה כְּשֵׁרָה כִּשְׁאָר הַקָּדָשִׁים. הָיוּ בָּהּ שְׁתֵּי שְׂעָרוֹת לְבָנוֹת אוֹ שְׁחוֹרוֹת בְּתוֹךְ גֻּמָּא אַחַת אוֹ בְּתוֹךְ שְׁנֵי כּוֹסוֹת וְהֵן מֻנָּחוֹת זוֹ עַל זוֹ פְּסוּלָה:


If there were two hairs, their roots reddish and their heads blackish, or their roots blackish and their heads reddish, their status follows the roots entirely. One should cut off the blackish head with scissors. He need not be concerned about the prohibition against shearing consecrated animals, because his intention is not to shear.


הָיוּ בָּהּ שְׁתֵּי שְׂעָרוֹת עִקָּרָן מַאֲדִים וְרֹאשָׁן מַשְׁחִיר עִקָּרָן מַשְׁחִיר וְרֹאשָׁן מַאֲדִים הַכּל הוֹלֵךְ אַחַר הָעִקָּר. וְגוֹזֵז בְּמִסְפָּרַיִם אֶת רֹאשָׁן הַמַּשְׁחִיר וְאֵינוֹ חוֹשֵׁשׁ מִשּׁוּם גִּזָּה בְּקָדָשִׁים שֶׁאֵין כַּוָּנָתוֹ לָגֹז:


Enough of the red hair must remain so that it can be pulled out by tweezers. For if a hair is not large enough to be pulled out by tweezers, it is considered as if it does not exist. Therefore if there were two white or black hairs that are so small that they cannot be pulled out by tweezers, it is acceptable.


וְצָרִיךְ שֶׁיִּשָּׁאֵר מִן הַמַּאֲדִים כְּדֵי שֶׁיִּנָּטֵל בְּזוּג שֶׁכָּל שְׂעָרָה שֶׁאֵינָהּ נִטֶּלֶת בְּזוּג הֲרֵי הִיא כְּאִלּוּ אֵינָהּ. לְפִיכָךְ אִם הָיוּ בָּהּ שְׁתֵּי שְׂעָרוֹת לְבָנוֹת אוֹ שְׁחוֹרוֹת שֶׁאֵינָן נִלְקָטִין בְּזוּג הֲרֵי זוֹ כְּשֵׁרָה:

Mishneh Torah (Moznaim)

Featuring a modern English translation and a commentary that presents a digest of the centuries of Torah scholarship which have been devoted to the study of the Mishneh Torah by Maimonides.


If its horns or hooves are black, they may be cut off and it is acceptable. The color of the eyeballs, the teeth, and the tongue do not disqualify a heifer.


הָיוּ קַרְנֶיהָ אוֹ טְלָפֶיהָ שְׁחוֹרִים יָגוֹד. גַּלְגַּל הָעַיִן וְהַשִּׁנַּיִם וְהַלָּשׁוֹן אֵין מַרְאֵיהֶן פּוֹסְלִים בְּפָרָה:


If it had an abnormal growth of another color and one cut it off, even though red hair grew in its place, it is unacceptable.


הָיְתָה בָּהּ יַבֶּלֶת וַחֲתָכָהּ. אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁצָּמַח בִּמְקוֹמָהּ שֵׂעָר אָדֹם פְּסוּלָה:


All of the physical blemishes that disqualify sacrificial animals, also disqualify a red heifer, for the prooftext cited above states: "Which does not possess a blemish." If the heifer was born by Caesarian section, was exchanged for a dog, was a present given a prostitute, was treifah, or had been sodomized, it is unacceptable. For any factor that invalidates a sacrificial animal for the altar invalidates the red heifer even though it is considered only as consecrated for the upkeep of the Temple, for Scripture has called it a sin-offering. It is permitted to purchase a red heifer from a gentile. We do not suspect that the gentile sodomized it, for he would not destroy the value of his animal.

There is a more severe element to the red heifer than to animals consecrated as sacrifices: work disqualifies it, for Numbers 19:2 states: "upon which a yoke was never placed." Now concerning a calf whose neck is broken, Deuteronomy 21:3 states: "With which no work was performed and which was not led with a yoke." Just as with regard to the yoke mentioned in connection with this calf, the Torah equated other labor with a yoke, so too, with regard to the red heifer, other forms of labor also disqualify it like a yoke does. There is, however, a greater stringency that applies with regard to a yoke. A yoke disqualifies the heifer whether it was placed upon it during work or not during work and other forms of labor disqualify it only when work was actually performed.

What is implied? If one tied a yoke upon it, it is disqualified even if one did not plow with it. If one placed it in a threshing team, it is not disqualified unless it actually threshed. Similar principles apply in analogous situations.

If one rode upon it, leaned upon it, hung on to its tail, crossed a river using it for support while swimming, folded its lead rope on top of it, placed his garment on it, placed a covering of sacks on it, it is disqualified. If one tied it with a rope because it was rebellious and required to be safeguarded, it is acceptable. If not, it is disqualified, for any safeguarding that is unnecessary is a burden.

If one shod its hooves so that it would not slip or spread his garment over it to protect it from flies, it is acceptable. This is the general principle: If anything is done for its own needs, it remains acceptable. If it is performed for another purpose, it is disqualified.

When work was performed with it as a matter of course or a yoke was placed over it as a matter of course, if the owner is pleased, it is disqualified. The rationale is that the verse above states: "With which no work was performed." The implication is that if work was performed with it and the owner would be satisfied, it is as if he performed work with it. Therefore, if a bird rested upon it, it is acceptable. If a male mounted it, it is unacceptable. Needless to say, a pregnant heifer is unacceptable.

If one placed it among a team of animals and it threshed grain on its own accord, it remains acceptable. If he placed it among the team so that it would nurse and thresh, it is disqualified, for he is satisfied that the work is performed. Similar laws apply in all analogous situations.


כָּל הַמּוּמִין הַפּוֹסְלִין בְּקָדָשִׁים פּוֹסְלִין בְּפָרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יט ב) "אֲשֶׁר אֵין בָּהּ מוּם". הָיְתָה יוֹצֵא דֹּפֶן אוֹ מְחִיר אוֹ אֶתְנָן אוֹ טְרֵפָה אוֹ שֶׁנִּרְבְּעָה פְּסוּלָה. שֶׁכָּל הַפּוֹסְלִין אֶת הַקָּדָשִׁים לַמִּזְבֵּחַ פּוֹסְלִין אֶת הַפָּרָה וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁהִיא כְּקָדְשֵׁי בֶּדֶק הַבַּיִת הוֹאִיל וּקְרָאָהּ הַכָּתוּב חַטָּאת. וּמֻתָּר לִקַּח אוֹתָהּ מִן הָעַכּוּ''ם וְאֵין חוֹשְׁשִׁין שֶׁמָּא רְבָעָהּ הָעַכּוּ''ם שֶׁאֵינוֹ מַפְסִיד בְּהֶמְתּוֹ. יְתֵרָה פָּרָה עַל הַקָּדָשִׁים שֶׁהָעֲבוֹדָה פּוֹסֶלֶת בָּהּ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יט ב) "אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָלָה עָלֶיהָ עֹל" וּבְעֶגְלָה עֲרוּפָה אוֹמֵר (דברים כא ג) "אֲשֶׁר לֹא עֻבַּד בָּהּ אֲשֶׁר לֹא מָשְׁכָה בְּעֹל" מָה עֹל הָאָמוּר בְּעֶגְלָה עָשָׂה שְׁאָר עֲבוֹדוֹת כְּעל אַף עֹל הָאָמוּר בְּפָרָה יִפְסל בָּהּ שְׁאָר עֲבוֹדוֹת כְּעל. אֶלָּא שֶׁהָעל פּוֹסֵל בֵּין בִּשְׁעַת עֲבוֹדָה בֵּין שֶׁלֹּא בִּשְׁעַת עֲבוֹדָה וּשְׁאָר עֲבוֹדוֹת אֵין פּוֹסְלוֹת אֶלָּא בִּשְׁעַת עֲבוֹדָה. כֵּיצַד. קָשַׁר עָלֶיהָ הָעל אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁלֹּא חָרַשׁ בָּהּ פְּסוּלָה. הִכְנִיסָהּ לָדוּשׁ אֵינָהּ נִפְסֶלֶת עַד שֶׁיָּדוּשׁ בָּהּ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה. רָכַב עָלֶיהָ. נִשְׁעַן עָלֶיהָ. נִתְלָה בִּזְנָבָהּ. וְעָבַר בָּהּ אֶת הַנָּהָר. קִפֵּל עָלֶיהָ אֶת הַמּוֹסֵרָה. נָתַן טַלִּיתוֹ עָלֶיהָ. נָתַן עָלֶיהָ כְּסוּת שֶׁל שַׂקִּים. פְּסוּלָה. קְשָׁרָהּ בְּמוֹסֵרָה אִם הָיְתָה מוֹרֶדֶת וּצְרִיכָה שְׁמִירָה כְּשֵׁרָה וְאִם לָאו פְּסוּלָה שֶׁכָּל שְׁמִירָה שֶׁאֵינָהּ צְרִיכָה מַשּׂוֹי הוּא. עָשָׂה בָּהּ סַנְדָּל שֶׁלֹּא תַּחְלֵּק. פֵּרַשׂ טַלִּיתוֹ עָלֶיהָ מִפְּנֵי הַזְּבוּבִין. כְּשֵׁרָה. זֶה הַכְּלָל כָּל שֶׁהוּא לְצָרְכָּהּ כְּשֵׁרָה לְצֹרֶךְ אַחֵר פְּסוּלָה. נַעֲשֵׂית בָּהּ מְלָאכָה מֵאֵלֶיהָ אוֹ שֶׁעָלָה עָלֶיהָ עֹל מֵאֵלָיו. אִם לִרְצוֹנוֹ פְּסוּלָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר אֲשֶׁר לֹא עֻבַּד בָּהּ שֶׁאִם עֻבַּד בָּהּ לִרְצוֹנוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה כְּמִי שֶׁעָבַד בָּהּ. לְפִיכָךְ אִם שָׁכַן עָלֶיהָ הָעוֹף כְּשֵׁרָה. עָלָה עָלֶיהָ זָכָר פְּסוּלָה. וְאֵין צָרִיךְ לוֹמַר שֶׁהַמְעֻבֶּרֶת פְּסוּלָה. הִכְנִיסָהּ לִרְבָקָה וְדָשָׁה מֵאֵלֶיהָ כְּשֵׁרָה. הִכְנִיסָהּ כְּדֵי שֶׁתִּינַק וְתָדוּשׁ פְּסוּלָה שֶׁהֲרֵי עָשָׂה לִרְצוֹנוֹ. וְכֵן כָּל כַּיּוֹצֵא בָּזֶה:


When a disqualifying factor invalidates a red heifer, it should be redeemed. Similarly, if it dies, it should be redeemed so that its hide can be used. This, however, should not be done in order to feed its meat to the dogs.


פָּרָה שֶׁנּוֹלַד בָּהּ פִּסּוּל תִּפָּדֶה. וְכֵן אִם מֵתָה תִּפָּדֶה מִפְּנֵי עוֹרָהּ. אֲבָל לֹא לְהַאֲכִיל בְּשָׂרָהּ לִכְלָבִים:


If it was slaughtered to be used as an ordinary animal, it should be redeemed and it does not bring about atonement. If it was slaughtered on top of the arrangement of wood set up for burning it, it can never be redeemed.


נִשְׁחֲטָה לְשֵׁם חֻלִּין תִּפָּדֶה וְאֵינָהּ מְכַפֶּרֶת. נִשְׁחֲטָה עַל גַּב מַעֲרַכְתָּהּ אֵין לָהּ פִּדְיוֹן עוֹלָמִית:


If a red heifer was purchased and then one found a more attractive one, the first may be redeemed even if it does not have a blemish.


לָקְחוּ פָּרָה וּמָצְאוּ אַחֶרֶת נָאָה מִמֶּנָּה הֲרֵי זוֹ תִּפָּדֶה שֶׁלֹּא בְּמוּם:


Even an ordinary priest is acceptable to perform the burning of the red heifer, as Numbers 19:3 states: "And you shall give it to Elazar, the priest." At that time, Aaron was still alive. According to the Oral Tradition, it was taught: That red heifer was offered by Elazar. The remainder of the red heifers could be offered either by a High Priest or an ordinary priest.


אַף כֹּהֵן הֶדְיוֹט כָּשֵׁר לִשְׂרֵפַת הַפָּרָה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (במדבר יט ג) "וּנְתַתֶּם אֹתָהּ אֶל אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן" וַעֲדַיִן אַהֲרֹן הָיָה קַיָּם. וּמִפִּי הַשְּׁמוּעָה לָמְדוּ זוֹ נַעֲשֵׂית בְּאֶלְעָזָר וּשְׁאָר כָּל הַפָּרוֹת בֵּין בְּכֹהֵן גָּדוֹל בֵּין בְּכֹהֵן הֶדְיוֹט:


The person offering the red heifer should wear the four garments of an ordinary priest. This applies whether it was offered by an ordinary priest or a High Priest.


וְהָעוֹשֶׂה אוֹתָהּ לוֹבֵשׁ אַרְבָּעָה כֵּלִים שֶׁל כֹּהֵן הֶדְיוֹט. בֵּין שֶׁעֲשָׂאָהּ כֹּהֵן הֶדְיוֹט בֵּין שֶׁעֲשָׂאָהּ כֹּהֵן גָּדוֹל:


All of those who were involved in the offering of the red heifer from the beginning to the end who had immersed that day are acceptable for the services associated with the red heifer, to consecrate the water used for sprinkling, and for sprinkling its ashes even though they did not wait until the nightfall after their immersion. The rationale is that the term "a pure man" used throughout that passage refers to one who is pure with regard to partaking of the second tithe, even though he is not pure with regard to partaking of terumah until nightfall. Such a person is pure with regard to the red heifer.


כָּל הָעוֹסְקִין בַּפָּרָה מִתְּחִלָּה וְעַד סוֹף שֶׁהָיוּ טְבוּלֵי יוֹם כְּשֵׁרִים לְמַעֲשֵׂה הַפָּרָה וּלְקַדֵּשׁ וּלְהַזּוֹת מֵאֶפְרָהּ וְאַף עַל פִּי שֶׁעֲדַיִן לֹא הֶעֱרִיב שִׁמְשָׁן. שֶׁזֶּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר בְּכָל הַפָּרָשָׁה (במדבר יט ט) "אִישׁ טָהוֹר" הוּא הַטָּהוֹר לְמַעֲשֵׂר שֵׁנִי אַף עַל פִּי שֶׁאֵינוֹ טָהוֹר לִתְרוּמָה עַד שֶׁיַּעֲרִיב שִׁמְשׁוֹ הֲרֵי זֶה טָהוֹר לְפָרָה:


The Sadducees would say that the offering of the red heifer was acceptable only when those bringing it had waited until nightfall after immersion. Therefore in the Second Temple, the court would cause the priest who burned the red heifer to become ritually impure through contact with the carcass of a crawling animal or the like. He would immerse and then offer the red heifer to nullify the words of these brazen ones who issue rulings according to their whims without basis in the received tradition. Similarly, all of the containers into which the ashes of the red heifer were placed were all immersed that day.


הַצְּדוֹקִין הָיוּ אוֹמְרִים שֶׁאֵין מַעֲשֵׂה הַפָּרָה כָּשֵׁר אֶלָּא בִּמְעֹרָבֵי שֶׁמֶשׁ. לְפִיכָךְ הָיוּ בֵּית דִּין בְּבַיִת שֵׁנִי מְטַמְּאִין אֶת הַכֹּהֵן הַשּׂוֹרֵף אֶת הַפָּרָה בְּשֶׁרֶץ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בּוֹ וְטוֹבֵל וְאַחַר כָּךְ עוֹסֵק בָּהּ כְּדֵי לְבַטֵּל דִּבְרֵי אֵלּוּ הַזֵּדִים שֶׁמּוֹרִים מֵהָעוֹלֶה עַל רוּחָם לֹא מִן הַקַּבָּלָה. וְכֵן כָּל הַכֵּלִים שֶׁמַּכְנִיסִין לְתוֹכָם אֵפֶר הַפָּרָה כֻּלָּם טְבוּלֵי יוֹם:


For the same reason, a person who cuts the stalk of a reed to place the ashes of a red heifer upon it so they can be placed in water to consecrate it for sprinkling, should make it impure, immerse it, and then place the ashes in it. The one who cuts it and the one who immerses it must immerse themselves, because that reed was considered as an entity that came in contact with a corpse on the seventh day of its purification process. Therefore it does not need to have the ashes of the red heifer sprinkled on it. Instead, it is made impure to show the Sadducees that the Oral Tradition should be upheld. It is then immersed and the ashes of the red heifer are placed in it.


הַחוֹתֵךְ שְׁפוֹפֶרֶת שֶׁל קָנֶה לְהַנִּיחַ בָּהּ אֵפֶר חַטָּאת יְטַמֵּא אוֹתָהּ וְיִטְבְּלֶנָּה וְאַחַר כָּךְ יַנִּיחַ בָּהּ. וְהַחוֹתְכָהּ וְהַמַּטְבִּילָהּ טָעוּן טְבִילָה מִפְּנֵי שֶׁעֲשָׂאוּהָ כִּטְמֵא מֵת בַּשְּׁבִיעִי שֶׁלּוֹ וּלְפִיכָךְ אֵינָהּ צְרִיכָה הַזָּאָה שְׁלִישִׁי וּשְׁבִיעִי אֶלָּא מְטַמְּאָהּ כְּדֵי לְהַרְאוֹת לַצְּדוֹקִין וּמַטְבִּילָהּ וְנוֹתֵן בָּהּ: