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PARAH (Heb. פָּרָה "heifer"), name of the fourth treatise in the Mishnah and the Tosefta in the order of *Tohorot. This tractate is based upon the pentateuchal law of the burning of the *red heifer as set forth in Numbers 19:1–22.

The tractate is divided into 12 chapters whose subject matter is the proper age for the validity of the heifer and other sacrificial animals; the type of work that invalidates the heifer (3:1, 3, 4); the degree of redness required (2:2, 5); the preparation of the priest prior to the burning of the heifer (3:1, 5, 8); the manner of bringing the spring water (3:3, 4); the procedure of the bringing and burning of the heifer (3:6, 7, 9–11; 4:2, 3); irrelevant intentions at the time of the slaughtering of the heifer (4:1, 3); defilement of those engaged in the preparation and burning of the heifer (4:4); qualifications for vessels containing the purifying waters (5); laws pertaining to work done with the spring water and the procedure of its mingling with the ashes of the heifer (6; 7; 8:1, 2; 9:4); the type and condition of spring water considered fit for the purifying waters (8:8–11; 9:1–3); status of the mixture after defilement (9:5–9); ritual uncleanness of objects coming in contact with the purifying waters or their vessels (10); cases of doubt if the purifying waters were defiled (11:1–2); laws of the hyssop used in the sprinkling of the purifying waters (11:7–9; 12:2, 6); procedure in the sprinkling on the ritually unclean (12:3–5, 11).

It is stated that until the destruction of the Temple no more than nine heifers were actually prepared (3:5), and the names of those who prepared them are given. Of significance is chapter 3 outlining extreme measures instituted by the rabbis to guarantee the ritual purity of the priest who was to burn the heifer. These were enacted as safeguards from certain opposing views of the Sadducees. The tractate includes discussion on some general principles of ritual uncleanness, not directly related to the major theme (8:4–7; 11:4–6; 12:8–10).

The Tosefta Parah consists of 12 chapters, which embody and supplement in detail the laws contained in the Mishnah. Noteworthy is the section on laws pertaining to the different standards of ritual purity between a *ḥaver and an *amha-areẓ (4:12–5:3). It should be noted that while J. Sussmann (1969) adduced considerable evidence for the observance of the laws of ritual purity in Ereẓ Israel throughout the amoraic period, he was unable to bring any direct evidence for the existence or use of the ashes of the red heifer during this period. Similar questions have been raised concerning the practices of the Dead Sea sect (see: J. Neusner, 1987, 146ff.). There is no Gemara on the tractate in the Babylonian Talmud nor in the Jerusalem Talmud. Neusner published a translation of the Mishnah (1991) and the Tosefta (2002) of Parah.


P. Blackman, Mishnayot, 6 (Eng., 1955), 401–5; H. Danby, Mishnah (Eng., 1933), 697–714; H.L. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (1931), 61–62. add. bibliography: Epstein, The Gaonic Commentary on the Order Toharot (Hebr.) (1982); S. Lieberman, Tosefet Rishonim, vol. 3 (1939); J. Sussman, "Babylonian Sugiyot to the Orders of Zera'im and Tohorot" (Hebrew; Ph.D. Thesis, 1969), 306–16; J. Neusner, A History of the Mishnaic Laws of Purities (1974–77), vol. 9–10; idem, From Mishnah to Scripture (1984), 59–66; idem, The Mishnah Before 70 (1987), 143–68; idem, The Philosophical Mishnah 3 (1989), 63–74; idem, Purity in Rabbinic Judaism (1994), 157–69.

[Jacob Kelemer]

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