Beginning before Purim and concluding before Pesach, we read — in addition to the weekly Torah portion — four special additional Torah sections. The Jerusalem Talmud1 states that according to Rabbi Chama bar Chanina, the third reading, the section of Parah [Adumah], is followed by the fourth reading of HaChodesh on the following Shabbos; without the interruption of an intervening Shabbos.

Rabbi Levi then indicates that this is indeed so, since while one may drink between the first and the second cups of wine during the Pesach Seder, and so, too, between the second and third cups, one may not drink between the third and fourth cups.2 Similarly, one may not interrupt (i.e., with an intervening Shabbos) between the third reading of Parah and the fourth reading of HaChodesh.

What is the connection between the third and fourth supplementary Torah readings, and the Seder’s third and fourth cups of wine?

The reason for reading the sections of Parah and HaChodesh in general is the following: Parah, dealing as it does with the purification rites of the Red Heifer, is read “to forewarn the Jewish people to purify themselves [from ritual impurity] so that they offer their Paschal offering in purity.”3 HaChodesh is read for “therein is found the portion concerning the Paschal offering.”4

We may accordingly explain the enactment of reading these two sections in one of the following two manners:

We may posit that these two readings are essentially one enactment that is divided into two parts. That is to say, during the Shabbosos between Purim and Pesach we are to read two sections regarding the preparations for bringing the Paschal offerings.

Alternately, we may maintain that these are two separate enactments, with Parah serving as an exhortation regarding the observance of ritual purity in general. In other words, Parah was merely established to be read close to the time of Pesach, as the admonition to observe ritual purity is germane to bringing the Pesach offering.

Correspondingly, we may say that while Rabbi Levi agrees with Rabbi Chama that Parah and HaChodesh are to be read on consecutive Shabbosos, he disagrees with regard to their enactment:

Rabbi Chama maintains that the two sections are to be read consecutively, as both are part of the same enactment. This is also why Rabbi Chama states that Parah precedes HaChodesh since “it involves the purification of all Israel,” i.e., it is something that is essential for all Jews as they prepare to bring the Pesach offering.

Rabbi Levi, however, disagrees. He indicates his disagreement by pointing out the similarity of the readings to the four cups of wine on Pesach, and that “one does not interrupt between the third and fourth cups”: Just as each cup is a separate and distinct mitzvah unto itself,5 with each cup commemorating something entirely unique,6 so too are Parah and HaChodesh distinct and unique unto themselves.

Chassidus can help us to better understand the relationship between HaChodesh immediately following Parah and the fact that “one does not interrupt between the third and fourth cups”:

In terms of man’s spiritual service, the difference between Parah and HaChodesh is similar to the difference between the service of the righteous and the service of penitents; the service of tzaddikim and baalei teshuvah.7

HaChodesh, containing as it does the section regarding Pesach, denotes the service of tzaddikim — similar to the time of the Exodus when the Jewish people were born as a nation, like a newborn child who has no evil. Parah [Adumah], designated by the Torah as a “sin offering”8 and atoning for the sin of the Golden Calf, is symbolic of the service of baalei teshuvah.

“No interruption is to be made between Parah and HaChodesh,” — i.e., the sections are to be connected — thus teaches us that even tzaddikim are to occupy themselves in teshuvah.9

According to the above, we may better understand the following statement of the Midrash:10 “Here [regarding the Pesach offering] the verse states ‘These are the statutes of the Pesach,’11 and here [regarding Parah] the verse states, ‘These are the statutes of the Torah.’12 One therefore does not know which statute is greater than the other.... Ultimately, however, Parah is greater, as those who eat the Pesach offering are in need of it.”

The debate as to which of the statutes is greater is consistent with the dispute in the Gemara13 whether complete tzaddikim are greater than baalei teshuvah, or whether baalei teshuvah stand even higher than tzaddikim.

The Midrash concludes that Parah is greater, “as those who eat the Pesach offering are in need of it.” This is to say that teshuvah is greater than the service of tzaddikim,14 for even tzaddikim — those who eat the Pesach offering — are in need of Parah, i.e., in need of teshuvah.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXXVI, pp. 206-210.