Parah Aduma - a korban or not?

There are two types of kedusha that relate to items dedicated to the beis hamikdash – kedushas bedek habayis and kedushas haguf.

  • Kedushas bedek habayis relates to items whose value is dedicated to the beis hamikdash. These items are sold by the gizbar and the money received is used for the upkeep of the beis hamikdash.
  • Kedushas haguf relates to animals that are korbanos. Here their actual bodies are hekdesh – not just their monetary value.

The Parah Aduma is not a korban. It has kedushas bedek habayis, not kedushas haguf. For example, the gemara says in Temura (20a):

...קדשי בדק הבית הוא וקדשי בדק הבית לא עבדי תמורה

“A Parah Aduma is kodshei bedek habayis and therefore if someone tried to exchange it for another animal, the second animal does not become a Parah Aduma.”

Nevertheless, the Parah Aduma is in some ways similar to a korban. The gemara says in Chullin (11a) that if a Parah Aduma is a tereifa (it has an internal wound that will make it die within 12 months) then it is passul, we learn this halacha because the Torah refers to the Parah Aduma as a chatas. Just as a chatas cannot be a treifa so too the Parah Aduma cannot be a treifa. There are also other halachos that we learn from the fact that the Torah calls it a chatas.

The acharonim discuss how this mixture of halachos works – when do we say that the Parah Aduma is kodshei bedek habayis and when do we say that it has halachos of a chatas

The Rambam says in Hilchos Parah Aduma (perek alef, halacha alef):
מצות פרה אדומה, שתהיה בת שלוש שנים או בת ארבע; ואם היתה זקנה, כשרה, אלא שאין ממתינין לה, שמא תשחיר ותיפסל. ואין לוקחין עגלה, ומגדלין אותה--שנאמר "ויקחו אליך פרה" (במדבר יט,ב), לא עגלה.


 “The Parah Aduma has to be 3 or 4 years old, if it was older than this it is still kosher but you don’t wait for it to grow older in case it will darken and become passul. You cannot buy a calf and let it grow as it says veyikchu elechah parah – that it should be a parah (adult cow) when it is bought and not a calf.”

The Raavad asks on the Rambam:

אמר אברהם לא מן השם הוא זה אלא שאין מקדישין מחוסר זמן למזבח וזו קרויה חטאת וכשם שאין מקדישין בעלת מום כך אין מקדישין אותה מחוסרת זמן

 “Why does the Rambam need to make a new derasha to prohibit being makdish a parah aduma if it is not 3 years old – we already know that there is a general halacha in korbanos that you cannot be makdish a korban if it is too young.

[For a normal korban – this is eight days. You cannot be makdish a korban under 8 days.

This halacha is brought in the Rambam in Hilchos Issurei Mizbeach (perek 3, halacha 10):

המקדיש מחוסר זמן הרי זה כמקדיש בעל מום עובר ואינו לוקה כמו שביארנו

 “If someone is makdish an animal that is less than 8 days old it is like he was makdish an animal that had a transient blemish. [It is ossur to do this, however the animal becomes a korban and the makdish does not receive malkos.”

For a Parah Aduma the age that it has to attain before becoming a korban is 3 years, as a Parah Aduma has to be 3 years old.]

Therefore, asks the Raavad, if the cow is not 3 years old, we know you cannot be makdish it because of the general halacha of mechusar zman, why does the Rambam need to quote a new derasha?

The יהגה האריה answers the question of the Ra’avad with a principle from Reb Chaim Soloveitchik z”l:

The Rambam says in Hilchos Parah Aduma (perek 1, halacha 9):
נשחטה לשם חולין תפדה ואינה מכפרת.

 “If the Parah Aduma was shechted to be ordinary meat and not to be a Parah Aduma then it should be redeemed from hekdesh and it is not metaher at all. (It is not a Parah Aduma) “

Asks Reb Chaim – why is this? All the hilchos korbanos of the Parah Aduma are learnt from the fact that the comparison to a chatas. If someone shechted a chatas to be ordinary meat and not to be a korban it is kosher – so how can a Parah Aduma be worse than a chatas?

Reb Chaim explains that before shechitah the Parah Aduma is ordinary kodshei bedek habayis – it only becomes like a chatas after shechitah. Therefore the shechitah has to turn it into a korban. This differs to regular korbonos where the korban achieves all the kedusha of a korban as soon as the owner is makdish it. If the person shechting the Parah Aduma intended that it should be meat, it never became a Parah Aduma.

In this respect the Parah Aduma is stricter than a regular chatas because the kedusha of a regular chatas was given to it when it became hekdesh. This kedusha is sufficient to make the shechitah kosher even if the shochet did not have intention that the animal should be a korban as the animal’s own kedusha carries it forwards.

We see from Reb Chaim that the Parah Aduma only acquires the halachos of a korban after shechitah. Therefore, says the יהגה האריה , the Rambam cannot say that the reason you cannot be makdish a Parah Aduma when it is less than three years old is because you cannot be makdish kodshim when they are below the required age because at the time of hekdesh the Parah Aduma does not have dinim of korbanos – it only acquires these dinim after shechitah.

That is why the Rambam needs a new passuk of veyikchu elechah parah to show that you cannot be makdish a Parah Aduma when it is too young.

The יהגה האריה asks on this principle of Reb Chaim:

The Rambam says (Hilchos Parah Aduma, perek 1, halacha 3):
היו בה שתי שערות עיקרן מאדים וראשן משחיר עיקרן משחיר וראשן מאדים הכל הולך אחר העיקר וגוזז במספרים את ראשן המשחיר ואינו חושש משום גיזה בקדשים שאין כוונתו לגוז

“If the Parah Adumah had two hairs that were not totally red – either their roots were red and their tips were black or their roots were black and their tips were red – the halacha is is defined by the roots. [If the roots were red] you can cut off the black tips. There is no issur of shearing kodshim because his intention is not to shear the korban [but simply to make it kosher.]”

From the fact that the Rambam uses the phrase ואינו חושש משום גיזה בקדשים – he does not need to be concerned about the issur of shearing kodshim - to refer to the Parah Aduma while it is alive, you see that it is considered to be like a chatas even before it is shechted – not like Reb Chaim. Therefore we still have the question of the Ra’avad – why does the Rambam need a specal possuk for mechusar zman in Parah Aduma?

The יהגה האריה answers that the Parah Aduma only has kedushas bedek habayis – it does not have any kedusha of korbonos at all. Although the Torah applies some halachos of a chatas to it, this does not mean that it is a korban or that it has kedushas haguf (see also Ohr Someach at the end of the first perek of Hilchos Parah Aduma who says the same.)

Therefore when you are makdish a Parah Aduma – you only give it kedushas bedek habayis. It is not possible to apply any of the halachos of how you are makdish a korban to this act of being makdish a Parah Aduma because this is not an act of making a korban. Therefore the halacha of being makdish an animal that is mechusar zman does not apply to the Parah Aduma and the Rambam needs a special derasha to derive the halacha that you have to wait till it has attained the age of 3 before making it a Parah Aduma.

It comes out that:

  • According to Reb Chaim the Parah Aduma has halachos of a chatos after it is shechted
  • According to the יהגה האריה a Parah Aduma has halachos of a chatos while it is still alive but these halachos apply only after it has become a Parah Aduma, they do not apply at the time of being makdish it.


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