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S.A.L.T. - Thursday

Rav David Silverberg

              The Torah in Parashat Chukat outlines the procedure required to eliminate the status of impurity which befalls a person or object that comes in contact with a human corpse.  The special waters prepared with the ashes of the para aduma (red heifer) must be sprinkled upon the person or object on the third and seventh days, and at the end of the seventh day, the person or object becomes tahor (pure).

            The Gemara in Masekhet Sota (38b-39a) addresses the case of one who intended to sprinkle the purification water in one direction, but mistakenly sprinkled it in a different direction – for example, he meant to sprinkle forward, in front of him, but the drops were accidentally cast backward, behind him.  Even though the water reaches impure objects, the Gemara states, the sprinkling is ineffective.  Rashi explains that this halakha is based on the Torah’s formulation in describing the procedure of purification with the para aduma waters: “Ve-hiza ha-tahor al ha-tamei” – “The pure one shall sprinkle upon the impure one” (19:19).  Chazal understood this to mean that the one sprinkling the water must have intention to sprinkle the water upon the specific person or object for the sprinkling to be effective in eliminating the status of impurity.  Therefore, if one sprinkles the water intending to purify one person or object but ends up sprinkling the water on a different person or object, the sprinkling is not effective.

            Significantly, Rashi writes in explaining this halakha, “’inan kavana le-tahara” – “for we require intention for purification.”  It appears from Rashi that in his view, the person sprinkling the water must intend not only for the water to reach the particular individual or object, but that the sprinkling should have the effect of bringing tahara.  This is also the opinion of the Rambam, who writes in Hilkhot Para Aduma (10:7), “The one sprinkling must intend and sprinkle upon the impure person to purify him.”  According to these Rishonim, it seems, the verse Ve-hiza ha-tahor al ha-tamei” implies that the person sprinkling the water must have in mind to bring purity upon the individual or utensil, and otherwise, the sprinkling is ineffective.

            The Ra’avad, however, disagrees.  In his critique of the Rambam’s Mishneh Torah, the Ra’avad writes that intention for the sake of tahara is not required when sprinkling the para aduma waters, and it suffices to have intention to sprinkle upon the particular person or object.  Rav Yechiel Michel Epstein, in his Arukh Ha-shulchan Ha-atid (71:3), notes that this view appears to have a source in the Sifrei Zuta, which comments, “The pure one shall sprinkle upon the impure one – and not when he does not intend for the impure one.”  This appears to suggest that all that is needed is for the one sprinkling to intend to sprinkle upon this particular tamei (impure person or object), and not that he must have in mind to sprinkle for the purpose of divesting the tamei of his or its impure status.

            The Arukh Ha-shulchan adds that Rashi and the Rambam likely felt that once the Torah established this requirement – that the person performing the sprinkling must intend to sprinkle upon the particular person or object – it stands to reason that he must have in mind to sprinkle for the sake of purification.  After all, there would be no other reason to sprinkle these waters on somebody or something if not for this purpose.  Hence, once the Torah requires intention for the particular person or object, this necessarily requires intention also for the purpose of purification.



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