This week we read Parshat Parah, The Portion of the cow (Bamidbar 19:1-22). This special portion discusses the laws of the Red Heifer. In order for a person to become ritually pure, a requirement for participating in certain sacrifices, after contact with a corpse, one had to undergo a purification process that involved the ashes of the Red Heifer. People who were defiled because of contact with a corpse had to become ritually pure before partaking of the Korban Pesach, the special Passover sacrifice. Because the purification process took time, and people began making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem right when the month of Nissan began, people needed to start the process in advance of the onset of Pesach. As a remembrance of these preparations, we read this portion two Saturdays before the beginning of the month of Nissan.

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