Why all the Mystery about Parshas Chukas?
I searched the internet and kept finding that people seemed to be so troubled regarding the paradox; that
those who were involved with the preparation of the Parah Adumah became tamei, while the finished product of the ashes of
the red cow mixed with water, purified those who had become tamei via contact with dead human bodies.
Throughout my research I asked myself the same question again and again, why is this such a big deal. Don’t we se
this elsewhere? The more I read, the more I saw that people were truly troubled by this question. Finally it clicked in this
morning just after davening, during breakfast: I have seen this before and here is my example from the world of basic biological
During my undergraduate studies at Hofstra University I had taken a class in undergraduate research. Without going into
all the details of the 6 month project which required me to wake up at 3:00 am to change the fluid which was dripping down
the sepahadex column into the drop counter for my protein separations, I will just get to the example at hand.
The final protein separations (I was trying to isolate a 30k keratin from human papiloma virus monoclonal antibodies) required
polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis.
We made the polyacrylamide gel in the lab from its ingredients which were in a powder form.
The only problem was that polyacrylamdie gel in it’s liquid form is a potent neurotoxin. If by some accident some of
this unfinished polyacrylamide were to come in contact with say one's hand, it could cause permanant paralysis.
Naturally I expressed my fear to the paid lab tech, and felt secure in the idea that he should
mix and pour the gel for me. He gave me a bit of mussar and told me that this was part of my project and that I just had to
wear gloves and be careful.
The point of this whole little walk down memory lane is the substance while it was being made was a potent neurotoxin which
could effectively cause paralysis in its liquid form before its production into a gel was completed. However once its production
was completed it could be handled like any other lab medium.
Those who were involved with the prepartaion of the not yet
complete mixture of the ashes of the Red Heffer along with water and the other ingredients became tamei, while the completed
mixture itself was capable of purifying even those who came in contact with dead human bodies.
Aharon Moshe Sanders, July 2, 2008
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