Shabbat, 10 Tammuz, 5778
23 June, 2018
Why does Moshe “need” the Parah Adumah (a perfectly red heifer)? He only does one thing with it!
This is the statute of the Torah which the Lord commanded
This is the Chukat of THE TEACHING [that is specially and specifically connected to and necessary for the ritual purification [sprinkling] of Pesach] which the Lord Commanded [to Moshe and Aharon].
Chometz (Leaven) is a symbol of pride (which we are to nullify prior to Pesach) and Cedar is a symbol of the ego, arrogance and brazenness. In a word, CHUTZPAH!
“This is the statute of the Torah which the L-RD commanded, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow, upon which no yoke was laid.”
and have them take for you: It will always be called on your name; ‘the cow which Moses prepared in the desert.’- [Mid. Tanchuma Chukath 8, see Etz Yosef]
Why ‘have them take “for you” ‘ (Moshe)?
The only thing Moshe does with the Parah Adumah is “give it to Eleazar” so why does he need it?
“And you shall give it to Eleazar the kohen, and he shall take it outside the camp and slaughter it in his presence.”
The Children of Israel take the Parah Adumah “for Moshe” so that HaShem may EXALT Moshe –
He is demonstrating to them with the rare occasion of having them select the Parah Adumah that he, Moshe (and ultimately HaShem) is still their Leader – He is solidifying Moshe’s leadership role as the Prophet par excellence!
Given that Korach’s rebellion stemmed from ego-centric jealousy and was an unsuccessfully destructive and prideful rebellion (Moses sent for Dathan and Abiram, ringleaders of the rebellion among the non-Levites. However, they replied with their usual arrogance (Numbers16:12-13) “we will not go up”); perhaps there remained some doubt in the eyes of the Children of Israel as to his leadership role as a Prophet that needed clarification so He is putting Moshe in the forefront of the eyes of the community (Children of Israel) by having them bring to Moshe a perfectly red heifer which he in turn simply gives to Eleazar (not Aharon) for slaughter and it’s burning with hyssop, cedar and crimson wool in preparation for mixing the Ashes (in water, which they incidentally were without)!
If, after Korach’s rebellion HaShem still needed to demonstrate Aharon’s priestly role openly, then why not Moshe’s role as Prophet: After all, “all the people are holy and HaShem is among them.” 16.3
“The authority of Aaron as High-priest was to be openly proved, so that his supremacy might forever be assured and recognized. Each tribe was commanded to bring one rod inscribed with its name; that of the tribe of Levi was to bear the name of Aaron. The rods were given to Moses, who took them into the Tabernacle. The tribe whose rod would blossom and bud was to be considered as especially elected and favored by G D.
Moses did as G D had ordered him. The next morning the priests entered the Sanctuary, and saw that Aaron’s staff had budded and blossomed and yielded ripe almonds! Moses carried the rods out to the children of Israel, and each of the tribes took its rod. Everyone was now convinced of Aaron’s right to the priesthood.”
“The kohen shall take a piece of cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson wool, and cast them into the burning of the cow.”
But why cedar, hyssop and crimson wool? Why cast them into the flames only to have them become ashes?
“Cast into the flames of the burning cow is cedar wood, symbol of ego, hyssop, a symbol of humility, with red crimson wool, signifying how all these elements become nullified for a higher good.”
“The cedar is among the tallest of faunae, its imposing height was used to build the Beit Hamikdash. Conversely, the hyssop is among the smallest and meekest plants. Rashi understands the usage of these two opposite ends of the spectrum to represent the metamorphosis of one guilty of misspeech: Such a person is full of imagined importance; he wants to feel strong as a cedar, and inflates his own ego at the expense of his fellow. For this, the Torah prescribes the remedy of the lowly hyssop and a spilt blood.
A cedar – because the affliction (of tzara’at) is due to arrogance.
Scarlet and hyssop – what is the method of fixing and healing? He should lower himself like a worm7 and like a hyssop. (The word tola’at can mean dyed wool, which is the straightforward meaning of the verse, or worm. See Shmot 16:20.)
The human experience of mortality works upon man’s ego in a similar way: Contact with death causes proud man to recognize and accept his lowly origin and modest destiny. Death awaits every living creature; it is an inescapable conclusion for the strong and the weak, the healthy and the frail.
The insight of the Ibn Ezra is based upon the Midrash which draws the parallel:
There are many other things which appear lowly, yet with which G-D commanded many mitzvot to be performed. The hyssop, for instance, appears to man to be of no worth, yet its power is great in the eyes of G-D, who put it on a level with cedar in numerous cases – in the purification of the leper, and the burning of the Red Heifer; and in Egypt too He commanded a mitzva to be performed with hyssop, as it says: AND YE SHALL TAKE A BUNCH OF HYSSOP. Of Solomon, also, does it say: And he spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springs out of the wall (I Kings 5:13) – to teach you that the small and the great are equal in the sight of G-D. He performs miracles with the smallest things, and through the hyssop which is the most lowly of trees, did He redeem Israel. Hence is He ‘like an apple-tree among the trees of the wood.’ ” <http://www.aish.com/tp/i/moha/48965351.html>