“This is the statute of the Torah which Hashem commanded, saying, Speak to Benei Yisroel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished cow (parah adumah), upon which no yoke was laid.”
The Medrash comments, This is the meaning of the possuk “Who can take something clean from something that is unclean? Not One?”
For instance, when a dead corpse is in a house then the house is tommai. However, if you remove the corpse from the house then the house becomes tohor (spiritually clean). (The Medrash continues) We learnt that on the one hand even the clothes of whoever helps to prepare the parah adumah become tommai. However, on the other hand when we spritz it on a garment that was tommai, the garment becomes tohor! (The Medrash concludes) Hashem said that this is a choke (a mitzvo without a reason) that I decreed.”
Zera Shimshon asks why did the Medrash give these two specific halachos as examples of our inability to understand tumma and the purification power of parah adumah? Seemingly, the whole concept of tumma and parah adumah is way beyond our grasp and not only these two specific halachos!
He answers that the general concept of tumma and parah adumah is really understandable. Tumma is not only a halachic status of a corpse, a dead animal, a metzora (who person who has suffers from leprosy), etc. Rather, in the object that is tommai resides bodiless destructive spirits (mazikkim). When a person comes in contact with something that is tommai (or is even under the same roof with a corpse) these mazikkim cling to him and he becomes tommai!
For instance, the Gemorra says that some great and holy sages even SAW the “spirit of leprosy” sprouting from a person. The Arizal writes that the smell of a dead animal that was not halachically slaughtered damages a person’s nefesh!
Therefore the Medrash understood that the general concept of transferring tumma is not a choke.
The same is with the ability of the parah adumah to purify.
At the time of the giving of the Torah we were freed from all destructive forces like death and oppresion from foreign goverments. However when we sinned with the Golden Calf then these destructive forces returned.
We are not, though, completely captive to them with no way to save ourselves. Whenever there is a huge surge of kedusha these forces “flee”.
Rashi explains that just like a mother cleans up after her child so too the parah adumah, who is a mother cow, cleans up after her young child, the sin with the Golden Calf. In other words, the kedusha that emanates from the parah adumah causes mazikkim to flee and therefore the object becomes tohor! This is how we can understand, explains Zera Shimshon, that the Cohan looked into the Bais HaMikdash when they shechted the parah adumah; it was in order to bring kedusha into the parah aduma in order that these mazikkim will go away.
According to this, the general ability of the parah adumah to make something pure is also not a choke but something understandable.
The Medrash therefore explains that there are two halachos that is above our understanding. If the mazikkim reside on a dead corpse and attach themselves to anything underneath the same roof, why when we take the dead body out of the house the mazikkim also leave without any purifaction process.
The same goes with the parah adumah. Even though we can understand the tremendous kedusha in the parah aduma that drives away the mazikkim, how do we understand that this kedushah doesn’t protect the people and the clothes of the people who prepare the parah adumah from becoming tommai! It is these because of these two halachos that the Torah calls parah adumah a choke!
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