Is the Parah Adumah Near Lakewood Kosher?


Parah Adumah 2By Rabbi Micha Cohn

Many residents of Lakewood have been thrilled to get a glimpse of a real live parah adumah living on a shomer Shabbos farm in Howell, New Jersey. The cow is completely covered with reddish brown hair. In this article we will discuss if there are any specific requirements as to how red the parah adumah must be.

Is Reddish Brown Considered Red?

In many areas of halacha the Torah is very specific about the shade of the color it is referring to. In the laws of Tzaraas, there are only four specific shades of white that make a person a metzorah. Similarly, in the laws of Taharah there are four specific shades of red that are considered Ta’mei Me’deoraisa. The Rambam, when he codifies these laws, describes these colors in great detail. However, in the laws of Parah Adumah, the Rambam does not give any specific description of the shade of red that is required.

Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Munk, in his work Paas Sadicha (1,95), asks an interesting question. He cites varying opinions if brown has the halachic status of red or not. He asks, if we maintain that brown is not considered halachically red, how do we ever have a parah adumah? Cows are never a true red, but maroon or brown. Seemingly, brown-maroon is considered red in all areas of halacha.

The counter argument to this approach would be that this is precisely why the parah adumah was so rare. After all, have you ever seen a really red cow? However, the rarity of the parah adumah does not seem to be because of its’ color. It is not rare to find a ‘red’ cow, but one that it completelyred. Furthermore, Rashi comments that most horses are ‘adom’. Seemingly ‘red’ horses are common. Rashi is obviously considering a brown-maroon horse as red. This would support the approach that maroon-brown is halachicly viewed as red.

Contrasting Parah Adumah & Techeiles

It is possible that the definition of red for the laws of parah adumah is more relaxed than other areas of halacha. As we mentioned, the Rambam does not give an exact shade of red acceptable for the parah adumah. It is interesting to contrast this with the Rambam pertaining to the laws of techeilesfor tzitzis. Although the Talmud does not go into great detail which shade of blue is acceptable, the Rambam does. He writes, it should be the color of a specific part of the sky. Contemporary discussions about using the murex for techeiles have raised the question whether this exact shade is required. The murex techeiles is a pretty dark blue, which seemingly does not fit the Rambam’s description. Proponents of this techeiles argue that there is no specific shade of blue that is necessary. However, Rabbi Nissim Karelitz understands that the Rambam is indicating that only a specific shade of blue is acceptable. Coming back to parah adumah, we can argue that the absence of any definition of which shade of red is acceptable, indicates that there is no specific requirement. This is not necessarily a broad halachic definition of the color red, as the Paas Sadicha understood, but rather one specific to parah adumah.

The Mishnah Achronah

The Mishnah Achronah, a classic 19th century commentary, takes this approach (Negaim 4,4, credit: Rabbi Shmuel Meir Katz). He points out that theMishnah speaks of the hairs of the parah adumah as being ‘reddish’ (ma’adim) not simply ‘red’ (adom). He infers that unlike the laws of Taharah andTzaraas, the parah adumah does not require a specific shade of red. Therefore, as long as it is reddish, this is sufficient, even if it is not a strong red. We can conclude, that at least according to the Mishanh Achronah and Paas Sadicha, the Howell Parah Adumah is acceptable.

The Significance of Parshas Parah

A final thought. The Sefer Hachinuch gives an interesting explanation of the significance of reading Parshas Parah. He writes that the parah adumahplayed an integral role in the Bais Hamikdosh. It was needed to became tahor from tumas meis, and was therefore a prerequisite for bringing all of thekarbanos. Because of the parah aduma’s indispensable role in the Bais Hamikdosh, we read Parshas Parah before Pesach every year. In the same vein, perhaps the great interest in the Howell parah adumah demonstrates our deep yearning for the Bais Hamikdosh.

{The Bais Havaad Halacha Center, Newscenter}


  1. Very interesting article!
    As a oost script, Rav Dovid Feinstein was brought to see it and, although he did not clearly, verbally declare it a definitively kosher for פרה אדומה, he was quite clearly impressed.

  2. “what difference does it make to us ????!!!!”

    This is huge. Without a parah adumah we can’t reinstate the Temple Service.

  3. To those asking what difference does it make ? It’s another subtle sign from Shamayim telling you to get out of the Galut and come home. Don’t waste anymore time hiding behind the greatest miracle and begining of our redemption. So wake up and come home. Show a little Bitachon.