Bamidbar 19:2 (at the beginning of this week’s parsha) states, “This is the law (chok) of the Torah that Hashem commanded, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and they shall take to you a red cow, perfect, with no blemish on it, upon which a yoke has not gone.”
Many of us tend to focus on the philosophical questions that arise from the ritual of the red cow and the broader concept of a chok – an understandable approach, since the ritual is not practiced today and so the practical actually seems less relevant than the philosophical. A TorahTutors student, however, learned a more technical mishna about what makes a red cow kosher – or not – for use in the ritual. Mishna Parah 2:4 helps define the requirement that no work have been done with the red cow: “If a bird rested on [the red cow], it is kosher; if a male mated with it, it is invalid.” This mishna led to interesting discussions about intent and benefit (e.g., if the owner didn’t intend for the cow to mate, but would benefit from the offspring), a connection to the laws of caring for a found object (Bava Metzia 30a), and ultimately, the discovery that although the law of para aduma is not currently practiced, studying it can indeed have eternal relevance.
A Tuesday TorahTutors tidbit: real Torah, from real TorahTutors sessions.