The Mishnah in Parah (4:1) states that the kohen or kohen gadol who carries out the procedure of the parah adumah wears “white clothing”. The meforshim explain that this phrase is a reference to the white garments that the kohen gadol wears on Yom Kippur. Chazal say in the Sifri (Midrash Halacha on Bamidbar and Devarim) that there is a gezeirah shavah between the avodah of yom kippur and parah adumah that teaches us that just as the kohen gadol on yom kippur wear white garments during certain portions of the avodah, the same is true with the kohen who carries out the parah procedure. These white garments are the ketones (type of shirt), mitznefes (kohen gadol’s hat), michnasayim (pants), and avnet (belt).
The Rambam in codifying this Halacha writes in Hilchos Parah (4:11) that the kohen gadol would wear the clothing of the kohen hedyot, the standard kohen. The Mishneh L’melech asks while the white clothing of the Kohen gadol are identical to that of the kohen hedyot, there is an exception, which was the avnet. The avnet of the kohen gadol on yom kippur was made of white linen while the kohen hedyot’s avnet also contained wool, meaning that the mixture was one of kila’im. So, how can the Rambam rule against the Mishnah? What is the source of the Rambam?
One way out of this problem would be to say that the Rambam is following the opinion in Yoma (12) that even the kohen hedyot’s avnet did not contain kila’im. However, the Rambam himself in Hilchos Klei HaMikdash (8) does not follow that opinion. Another possible solution would be that the Rambam is following the Tosefta (4:6), which clearly states that the kohen would wear the clothing of the kohen hedyot. However, that answer would also not be tenable since the Tosefta could be holding like the aforementioned opinion in Yoma which says that the kohen hedyot’s avnet was just like that of the kohen gadol of Yom Kippur. However, again, the Rambam does not follow this view. So how did the Rambam come to his halachic conclusion?
The Achronim answer in different ways and some leave the question unanswered (such as the Chazon Ish). The Tiferes Yisrael (Boaz 1) writes that the Rambam holds the gezeirah shavah from the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur to be just a mitzvah b’alma, the ideal non-obligatory way of performing the mitzvah. The basic obligation however is learnt from a different pasuk in the parsha of parah from which we derive that the kohen must wear bigdei kehunah. The pasuk says “Elazar haKohen”, which teaches that we need bigdei kehunah of a kohen hedyot. The Tiferes Yisrael states that there is a general rule that any din learned out from a pasuk in the parsha of parah is a chiyuv, while a Halacha learnt out elsewhere for parah, such as our gezeirah shava is not a chiyuv.
Of course, one major issue with this approach, which the Tiferes Yisrael himself acknowledges, is that the Rambam makes no mention of the fact that the ideal way of performing this mitzvah is with the Kohen gadol’s white clothing!
Another solution is given by the Chasdei David on Tosefta (4:6) who proves that this exact issue of which white clothing is a machlokes in both the Sifri and Tosefta. The opinion which uses the gezeirah shava holds that the clothing of the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur are worn, while the opinion who learns out from the pasuk of Elazar HaKohen holds that bigdei hedyot are worn. The Mishnah, which states vaguely that white garments are worn can be understood according to either opinion.
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