From the ceremony of the Red Heifer, we begin to get the idea that there are certain things that would make one unclean that must take place in order to make another clean, or to save a life. This concept can be seen in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10.30-37.
A traveler is wounded by robbers and left for dead. A priest comes by, then goes to the other side of the road. A Levite does the same. Now, they were following the Torah in Lev 21.1-3 and Num 19.14 where it says that a priest cannot even “overshadow” a corpse. The priests and the Levites were instructed by God to remain in a ritually clean state. A Samaritan came along and helped the man, overcoming his prejudices concerning the Jews.
The point of the story that Yeshua is making is that following the letter of the Torah without the spirit of it can inhibit acts of kindness and mercy. It wasn’t that they were heartless, they had a commission from God to remain clean so they could minister in the Temple and join the people to God. But in this case, the man wasn’t dead and they could have done something. But assuming he was dead, they did not want to be defiled and unclean for seven days.
In the course of their job, there were times when they became unclean for the sake of others. It was a personal sacrifice. He must literally “cut himself off” from the Temple in order to accomplish the purification of others. This pointed to the work of Yeshua, but the priest and the Levite were so conscious about following the letter of the Torah, it limited their acts of mercy and kindness.
Moving on, we know that the ashes of a Red Heifer was mixed with water and then sprinkled by someone who is clean. In the mind of the people of Israel, the Parah Adumah is associated with the sin of the Golden Calf (Hertz Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p 652). In Song of Songs 5.10, we read that “my beloved is dazzling (bright and pure) and ruddy.” These are Messianic terms because David was ruddy (1 Sam 16.12= “ruddy” means “red, rosy”) and Messiah is the Son of David. Ruddy is tied in with the Parah Adumah (Adam= blood of God, “red”) and the Messiah is the second Adam.
There are four Torah readings before Passover and they start out with the Parah Adumah. Now, there is what is called the “Five Megillot” or five scrolls (Song of Songs; Ruth; Lamentations; Ecclesiastes; Esther). They are read at different times during the year.
The Song of Songs is read during the Sabbath of Passover and in the peshat level, Solomon is the groom, but in the sowd level God/Messiah is the groom. So, during Passover we have many things linked. We have the Exodus, the Golden calf, betrothal.
The Parah Adumah is read four weeks before Passover, linking it to the Golden Calf. Song of Songs (or “Shir ha Shirim” in Hebrew) gives an eschatological picture of marriage. Israel threw off the “yoke” (Torah was the Shitre Erusin or betrothal covenant-Jer 2.2) by making the Golden Calf. The “unyoked” (“no works righteousness”) Red Heifer is given to them as a “yoke” through fulfilling God’s commandments. By doing this, the reaccept God’s authority over them and are betrothed, moving towards full marriage (Exo 24.4; Song 8.5).
Why does anyone keep the commandments? Is it for righteousness? No, the Scriptures are clear about that. Is it to accept God’s authority over them? Yes, and Matt 11.29-30 says that Yeshua’s “yoke” is easy. The yoke is seen as the commandments (Hertz Siddur, p. 112; 433; 651) and they are what helps the people “pull together” in the Kingdom of God. They are God’s authority over us.
In the Garden of Eden, the Lord gave everything to Adam, except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This was to show authority over Adam. God owned the property and put restrictions on it. When Adam violated the agreement, it showed that he was throwing off the restrictions God put on him, and it was sin.
This yoke is also referred to as the Kingdom of God, or his rule over us (Mishnah, Berachot 2.2,5). In the same way, the Lord does this with the Torah. The commandments were not burdensome (1 John 5.3) and they were called the “law of liberty” in James 1.25 and Psa 119.45. The Torah is truth, and truth makes free (John 8.32). By teaching people that the “law has been done away with” and “we are free from the law” false teachers are making the same mistake Adam did.
In the Golden Calf incident found in Exo 32, we learn that the calf is burned and the ashes are ground up, mixed with water, and Moses made the people drink the mixture. Do you know what happened when Moses did this? The water turned red. The Golden Calf defiled the people and 3000 people died. This story is preserved for generations and everyone contributed to the Golden Calf, even Aaron participated.
On the other hand, in Num 19, the heifer is burned and the ashes are gathered and mixed with water. The heifer defiles the preparer but it purifies an impure person. The ashes of the heifer are preserved for generations. Everyone contributes when buying the heifer because it came out of the public funds.
Aaron’s son burned the first Red Heifer. What is the sowd meaning (deeper, mystical) of the Red Heifer? The Red Heifer is a paradox. It both defiles the preparer and cleanses the impure, and it contains an important lesson. One of the biblical mysteries is the co-existence of good and evil, happiness and tragedy. Why righteous people are exposed to suffering baffles even the greatest of prophets and is the theme of the book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet).
Unable to explain these contradictions of life, the pagan nations ascribe their origin to “dual” deities and gods. One who brings blessings and one who brings evil. For this reason, people today say there is no ruling “god” in the universe. The Torah teaches us to believe in one God, from which all events come from, both good and evil.
The contradictory things associated with the Parah Adumah teaches us to give the mystery of life to the limitations of our intellect. When we see the limitless things associated with the Lord and how we just “see through a glass dimly” the contradictions vanish away. Everything has a purpose and is part of a divine plan that we do not understand fully, but we know all things work for our good if we are believers and called according to his purpose.
The Parah Adumah teaches us that we must view life with Emunah, faith and confidence. The bottom line is faith in God. In Part 6, we will begin to look at the current status of the Red Heifer plans and things that have happened up to this point. We will also begin to look and see how all this relates to prophecy.