We begin the reading of two special maftirs that remind Bnei Yisrael of the preparations for the upcoming central mitzva of the Korban Pesach (see Rashi, Megilla 29a). Parashat Para discusses the step of those who came in contact with the high level of tumah coming from a human corpse, who needed to purify themselves in order to bring the Korban Pesach. Next week’s Parashat Hachodesh reminds people generally about the need to prepare for the Korban Pesach with a variety of halachot to keep in mind.
In Parshat Shemini, Aharon is commanded to bring as a sacrifice “a young calf as a sin offering” (Vayikra 9:2). Rashi explains that Hashem thereby informed Aharon that this was his atonement for the Golden Calf. Similarly, Chazal said that the red heifer was to atone for the Golden Calf (Midrash, Bamidbar Chukat 19:2).
This week the maftir is the section on the Para Aduma (Red Heifer). It is a good time to look at the place of logic and human intellect as a central part of our belief as Jews, and how the Para Aduma fits into the fabric of the mitzvot in this regard.