Parshas Chukas is literally packed to the brim with some of the most famous stories in the Torah. From the laws of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) to Moshe hitting the rock to the deaths of Aharon and Miriam to the beginning of the end of the journey to Eretz Yisrael, this week’s parshah has no shortage of topics to write about. If only we could spend time on all of them, but sadly, we must only choose one.
The Torah explains that when someone becomes spiritually impure through coming into contact with a dead body, he becomes pure again by being sprinkled with the ashes of the Parah Adumah. When explaining the topic of the Parah Adumah, Rashi first explains technically how the whole process works along with all the laws and procedures. Afterwards, he brings the midrashic explanation. The question that everyone asks, and rightly so, about Parah Adumah is what is the significance of this red cow that it is used to make a tamei (spiritually impure) person tahor (spiritually pure)? The medrash explains that the first time Bnei Yisrael became tamei after receiving the Torah was from the Egel Hazahav (Golden Calf), the medrash says that the Parah Adumah, the “mother cow”, should come and clean up the mess of the “baby cow”, the Egel. The same way that the Egel made Bnei Yisrael tamei, the Parah Adumah will make everyone tahor.
The Sifsei Chachamim asks on this medrash that we have a concept called אין קטגור נעשה סנגור, the prosecutor cannot become the defendant. How can the cow which caused the Jewish People to sin in the first place, come back and act as the tool to reach spiritual purity and connect us with Hashem? Similarly, when the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) went into the Kodesh Hakedoshim (Holy of Holies) on Yom Kippur, he did not wear any gold material on his clothing since the Egel was made of gold and it is no longer a material which can be used to facilitate forgiveness. Predictably, the question is answered with another question. If using gold clothing would remind Hashem of the sin of the Golden Calf, why would the Kohen Gadol ever be able to wear gold clothing? The answer is that we are strict about the use of gold clothing pertaining to any service done in the Kodesh Hakedoshim, however for every other part of the Beis Hamikdash service, we are not. The same applies to the Parah Adumah, since it isn’t connected in any way to the Kodesh Hakedoshim, we don’t say אין קטגור נעשה סנגור.
This rule of אין קטגור נעשה סנגור brings up another question in a later Rashi. The pasuk says, “וּנְתַתֶּם אֹתָהּ אֶל אֶלְעָזָר הַכֹּהֵן” “And you shall give it (the Parah Adumah) to Elazar the Kohen” (19:3). Rashi asks how come Elazar was in charge of preparing the Parah Adumah and not Aharon the Kohen Gadol? He answers, “…ולפי שאהרן עשה את העגל לא נעשית עבודה זו על ידו, שאין קטיגור נעשה סניגור” “…Because Aharon made the calf, this service was not given to him, for a prosecutor does not become a defense counselor” (19:22)! How can Rashi use אין קטגור נעשה סנגור to explain why Aharon couldn’t work with the Parah Adumah when we just explained that this only applies to the Kodesh Hakedoshim? The Sifsei Chachamim answers that since Aharon himself was the one who made the Egel, he could not be directly involved with the process that would help exonerate Bnei Yisrael of this sin. Therefore, אין קטגור נעשה סנגור still applies.
Nowadays, we no longer have the Parah Adumah and cannot purify ourselves from our impure state. As we approach the time period of The Three Weeks when we commemorate the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, this should be another thing we daven for with its return, the opportunity to become completely tahor and be able to bring korbanos in the Beis Hamikdash together with all of Klal Yisrael.