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Numbers Chapter 19
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The Red Cow
19:1 God spoke to Moses and Aaron, telling them that
19:2 the following is declared to be the Torah's decree as commanded by God:

Speak to the Israelites and have them bring you a completely red cow, which has no blemish, and which has never had a yoke on it.

19:3 Give it to Eleazar the priest, and he shall have it brought outside the camp. It shall then be slaughtered in his presence.
19:4 Eleazar the priest shall take the blood with his finger and sprinkle it toward the Communion Tent seven times.
19:5 The cow shall then be burned in [Eleazar's] presence. Its skin, flesh, blood and entrails must be burned.
19:6 The priest shall take a piece of cedar wood, some hyssop, and some crimson [wool], and throw it into the burning cow.
19:7 The priest must then immerse his vestments and his body in a mikvah, and remain unclean until evening, after which he may come into the camp.
19:8 The one who burns [the cow] must also immerse his clothing and body in a mikvah, and then remain unclean until evening.
19:9 A ritually clean person shall gather up the cow's ashes, and place them outside the camp in a clean place. They shall be a keepsake for the Israelite community to be used for the sprinkling water, as a means of purification.
19:10 The one who gathers up the cow's ashes must immerse [his body and] his clothing, and remain unclean until evening.

[All] this shall be an eternal law for the Israelites and for any proselyte who joins them:

19:11 If one has contact with any dead human being, he shall become ritually unclean for seven days.
19:12 [In order to become] clean, he must have himself sprinkled [with the purification water] on the third day and the seventh day.
19:13 Any person who touches the corpse of a human being who has died, and does not have himself sprinkled, shall be cut off [spiritually] from Israel if he defiles God's Tabernacle [by entering it].
19:14 When a man dies in a tent, this is the law: Everything that comes into the tent or was [originally] in the tent shall be unclean for seven days.
19:15 Every open vessel that does not have an airtight seal shall be unclean.
19:16 [Similarly], anyone who touches a victim of the sword, [any other] corpse, a human bone, or a grave, [even] in the open field, shall be unclean for seven days.
19:17 Some of the dust from the burnt purification offering shall be taken for such an unclean person. It shall be placed into a vessel that has been [filled with water directly] from a running spring.
19:18 A ritually clean person shall then take some hyssop and dip it into the water. He shall sprinkle [the water] on the tent, on all the vessels and persons who were in it, and on anyone who touched a bone, a murder victim or any other corpse, or a grave.
19:19 The ritually clean person shall sprinkle [the water] on the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day. The purification process is completed on the seventh day, when [the person undergoing purification] must immerse his clothing and body in a mikvah, and then become ritually clean in the evening.
19:20 If a person is unclean and does not purify himself, and then defiles God's sanctuary [by entering it], that person shall be cut off [spiritually] from the community. As long as the purification water has not been sprinkled on him, he shall remain unclean.
19:21 This shall be to you a law for all times.

One who sprinkles the purification water [other than when it is done for the purification ritual] must immerse [both his body and] his clothing. However, if he [merely] touches the purification water, [he must only immerse his body] and then be unclean until evening.

19:22 Anything that a person unclean [by contact with the dead] touches shall become unclean. [Moreover] any person touching [him] shall be unclean until evening.


God spoke...
  According to tradition, this was said on 1 Nissan of the second year of the Exodus, the day when the Tabernacle was erected (Gittin 60a,b). It is mentioned now because it was used to purify the people after Miriam's death (Numbers 20:1; Josephus, Antiquities 4:4:6).

completely red
  If it has two or more hairs that are not red, it is invalid (Parah 2:5).

  At least three years old (Parah 1:1; Yad, Parah Adumah 1:1).

  See Leviticus 22:18-22.

Eleazar the priest
  This indicates that it could be made by a common priest (Yoma 42b; Yad, Parah Adumah 1:11; Ramban). According to some, however, it had to be prepared by the segan, the assistant to the High Priest (Rashi; cf. Sifri).

then be slaughtered
  By anyone, even a non-priest (Yoma 43b; Rashi; Yad, Pesuley Mukdashin 1:2). Others, however, maintain that it must be slaughtered by a priest (Targum Yonathan; Midrash HaGadol; Adereth Eliahu).

in his presence
  This indicates that the supervising priest must be present and attentive (Yoma 42a; Midrash HaGadol).

with his finger
  Directly from the cow's neck, and therefore, the blood could not be collected in a vessel (Sifri; Yad, Parah Adumah 4:4), but some may dispute this (Raavad on Yad, ibid. 3:2). The priest would therefore collect the blood in his left hand and sprinkle it with his right forefinger (Yad, ibid. 3:2; Sifri).

sprinkle it
  From where he is outside the camp (Yad, Parah Adumah 3:2).

  By a priest (Yad, Parah Adumah 1:11).

cedar wood
  See Leviticus 14:4. This had to be taken from the trunk of the tree (Sifri Zuta; Adereth Eliahu). Some say that it had to be at least one handbreadth long (Midrash HaGadol).

  See Exodus 12:22. It also had to be at least one handbreadth long (Niddah 26a; Yad, Parah Adumah 3:2). Some sources appear to indicate that three branches were required (Sifri; Toledoth Adam ad loc.; Malbim).

crimson wool
  See Exodus 25:4, Leviticus 14:4. The piece of wool had to weigh at least 5 shekels (4 oz.). It was used to tie the hyssop and cedar together (Yoma 42a; Yad, Parah Adumah 3:4).

burning cow
  When the heat of the fire caused the belly of the cow to burst, the above articles would be thrown into the body cavity (Targum Yonathan; Parah 3:10; Sifri; Yad, Parah Adumah 3:4).

  See Exodus 19:10.

until evening
  See Leviticus 11:24, 14:26, 15:5, 17:15, 19:23, 22:6.

after which...

ritually clean person
  Anyone, even a woman (Yoma 43a; Yad, Parah Adumah 43a). Other sources, however, apparently require a priest (Targum Yonathan; cf. HaKethav VeHaKabbalah).

  They were ground up into fine dust (19:17; Parah 3:11; Midrash HaGadol; Yad, Parah Adumah 3:3).

  (Targum; Rashi; Saadia; Septuagint). Niddah in Hebrew. Or, 'purification water,' that is, water that separates man from defilement (Ibn Janach); or, 'restricted water' (Ibn Ezra; Radak, Sherashim).

  (Rashi; Septuagint). See 19:17. Or, 'it is a sin offering' (Targum), or, 'it is like a sin offering' (Avodah Zarah 23b; Rashi).

human being
  Even a gentile (Yad, Tumath Meth 1:12).

have himself sprinkled
  (Targum). Yith-chata in Hebrew. Or, 'purify himself' (Ibn Janach; Septuagint), or, 'have himself expiated (Radak, Sherashim). From here is derived the custom of washing the hands after a funeral (Bachya; Paaneach Raza on Numbers 20:2).

with the purification water
  See Numbers 19:9,18.

third day and the seventh day
  From the time that he became unclean (Yad, Parah Adumah 11:2). One can begin counting three days at any time and then begin the process. However, if one then delays the second sprinkling until after the seventh, some say that he must begin the count again (Raavad ibid.), while others maintain that he can be sprinkled after the seventh day as well (Yad, ibid.).

if he...

  Only an Israelite. Although even a gentile defiles on contact, only an Israelite can defile the entire tent or house (Yad, Tumath Meth 1:13; see Numbers 19:11).

  Only a vessel that cannot become unclean if touched on the outside, and therefore, a clay vessel (Sifri; Yad, Tumath Meth 5:6; see Leviticus 11:33). This rule also applies in the case of vessels that cannot be ritually defiled at all, such as those made of stone or aquatic animals. In such cases, if they are sealed, articles inside them do not become unclean (Kelim 10:1; Yad, Tumath Meth 21:1).

  (See Yad, Tumath Meth 22:9). This seems to be required by the law (cf. Ohaloth 10:2,4; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah). Tzamid in Hebrew, denoting a bracelet and an airtight seal. In general, tzamad denotes tight attachment (Numbers 25:3, 2 Samuel 20:8, Psalms 50:19), and hence, tzamid denotes something that is tightly attached (Saadia, Radak, Sherashim; Ibn Janach; Bertenoro on Kelim 10:2; Eliahu Rabbah, Kelim 9:7; Adereth Eliahu). Some say that it denotes something that is sealed tightly to something else, such as when two things are melted together (Rashi, Sanhedrin 64a, s.v. HaNitzmadim; Rash, Kelim 10:2; Yad, Tumath Meth 22:8; cf. Bava Kama 105a). According to others, it denotes 'tight' (Rashi, Chullin 25a, s.v. Hah Yash). Some sources, however, indicate that a tzamid is a cap or stopper (Sifri; Septuagint).

  (Rashi; Ibn Janach; Rambam on Kelim 10:2). Pethil in Hebrew, which denotes a thread or a cap (cf. Genesis 38:18, Exodus 28:37). Or, 'tight' (Rosh, Kelim 10:2); 'stopper' (Rashi, Chullin 25a, s.v. Pethil); 'all around it' (Sifri; Saadia); 'bound to it' (Septuagint); or 'cloth' (Radak, Sherashim; but see Kelim 10:4).

Tzamid Pethil can thus denote 'a tight cover,' 'a tight stopper,' 'a sealed-on cover,' 'a seal all around it,' 'a covering bound on it,' 'a cloth attached to it,' or, as we have it, 'an airtight seal.'

If a clay vessel has a tzamid pethil on it, it does not become defiled if it is in the same tent or house as a corpse. Moreover, anything inside it also does not become defiled.

  This teaches that the ashes are ground into dust. See Numbers 19:9.

purification offering
  Chatath in Hebrew; see Numbers 19:15.

shall be placed
  By anyone (Yad, Parah Adumah 6:2).

  Any vessel (Sifri; Yad, Parah Adumah 6:3).

that has been
  The water must be put in first (Sotah 16b; Yad, Parah Adumah 9:1).

  (Yad, Parah Adumah 6:1, 6:9).

running spring
  Literally, 'living water.' See Leviticus 14:4, 15:13. There is a question as to whether river water is good for this (Yad, Parah Adumah 6:10, Raavad ad loc.).

  3 branches (Sifri; Yad, Parah Adumah 6:10, Raavad ad loc.).

other than...
  (Yoma 14a; Rashi; Yad, Parah Adumah 15:1). This is true no matter how one lifts that amount of water.

must only immerse...

  An Israelite.

by contact with the dead

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