Ki Tisa - 5764
Parshat “Parah” – 5764 - The Color Red
Of the various puzzling and paradoxical
aspects of the "Parah Adumah," the "Red Heifer" (or the "Red Cow"), I would
like to discuss the significance of the color red.
The Planet Mars has been in the news recently, because of the incredible
events taking place there, due to the American ingenuity involved in sending
a robot explorer millions of miles from Earth, to actually land on the
surface of the planet, take and transmit photographs and perform scientific
experiments, mainly designed to probe for the existence, now or in the past,
of water, a primary substance of life. Mars is known as the "Red Planet",
and has therefore long been a symbol of war, because red is the color of
blood. When Pharaoh said to Moshe, "Behold an evil Heavenly Messenger rising
against you," (Shemot 10:10) RASHI explains this as a reference to the
planet of blood, presumably or possibly, a reference to Mars.
The greatest enemies of the Jewish People have been associated with the
color red. At the birth of Esav "ha-rasha," "the wicked," the Torah
describes his complexion as "admoni," "ruddy." When Yaakov prepares a meal
of lentils, Esav, coming exhausted from the field, asks that Yaakov give him
"min ha-adom, ha-adom ha-zeh," "from this very red food" (Bereshit 25:30);
the Bible remarks that this is the reason Esav is called "Edom."
"Edom" is also the name associated with the nation and religion that did and
that has done the most damage to the Jewish People; namely, the Romans,
representing Christianity and the Western world. In the "family tree" of
Esav, Rome destroyed the Second Temple and, after the Romans’ national
conversion to Christianity, in the time of the Emperor Constantine, the
Church continued to persecute the Jews throughout the Jewish Exile and
throughout the Ages, well into our own century. They have been on the whole
the unworthy descendants of Esav about whom one opinion among the Sages
states that "it is a 'Halachah l'Moshe MiSinai,' " "a law given unto Moshe
at Sinai," that, with rare exceptions, "Esav soneh l'Yaakov," "Esav hates
Even at this very moment, with the screening of Mel Gibson’s movie, it
appears that again the false charge of deicide, the spilling of the blood of
Jesus, that is responsible for the spilling of rivers of Jewish blood, is
about to rise from the grave and be laid again on the doorstep of the Jewish
People. Unless HaShem intervenes again, as He did by striking the principal
actor and one of the assistant directors during production with bolts of
lightning – which unfortunately were laughed off by Gibson and his foolish
Yet, there were many conversions to Judaism at the time of the ascendancy of
the early Roman Empire and, paradoxically, one of our greatest national
heroes, "David Melech Yisrael," "David King of Israel," is also described as
"ruddy, with fair eyes, and with a nice appearance" (I Shmuel 16:12). He
brought into the Jewish People the finest characteristics of the Moabite
People in the person of Ruth the Moabitess, who had learned the Jewish
ideals of "tzeniut," "modesty," and "chesed," "kindness," until they sank
"into her bones," from her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Blood is forbidden to Jews to eat possibly because murder, the wanton
spilling of blood, is a capital crime; neither is the blood of animals to be
spilled lightly. The blood of the "chayah," the "undomesticated animal," and
of the "ohf," the "bird," have to be covered after their slaughter. Reddish
gold was the color of the "Egel Ha-Zahav," the "Golden Calf," the great sin
against G-d described in today’s parashah of Ki-Tisa, in which the Jewish
People added sexual immorality and murder to the basic betrayal of G-d
represented by that sin.
Yet, red has a very different aspect. It is an intense, beautiful color,
with a long wavelength placing it at the very opposite end of the spectrum
from the blue of the heavens; namely, the color of earth. The Hebrew word
for "earth" is "adama," from which "Original Man," "Adam Ha-Rishon," was
created. Red is indeed the color of blood, but it is "blood, which is the
basis of life."
It is the color of the setting sun, of beautiful flowers with which the "Tzayar
Ha-Olamim," the "Artist of the Universe," filled the world, such as the "Chavaztelet
Ha-Sharon," the Rose of Sharon," of "Shir Ha-Shirim," the "Song of Songs."
It was the color of some of the hides used to cover the "Mishkan," the "Holy
Tabernacle," which preceded the Temple. It is the color of the blood which,
when sprinkled in the Temple on the Day of Atonement, brought "Kapporah,"
"Atonement," to the Jewish People. And it is the color of the Red Heifer
whose very essence is to atone for the Egel and for all manner of impurity
attaching to individual Jews.
We are fortunate that a number of Red Heifers are currently being raised in
Eretz Yisrael, in preparation for the Restoration of the Temple, may that
blessed event come speedily, and in our time.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel