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Bava Metzia 93a reads: "One who safeguards the red heifer renders his garments impure ... Rabba bar Ulla said: This is a decree, lest he move a limb of the heifer."

But... how does it deter him from moving a limb of the heifer? If the rule was that his clothes would be rendered impure if he touched the heifer, that would be a deterrent. But if they're defiled either way, just as a consequence of him turning up for work, what's the reasoning here?

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It’s not to deter him from moving a limb. If he moves a limb, he is impure mideoraita.

We worry that perhaps the guard inadvertently moved a limb, rendering himself impure. Due to this worry, the sages decreed impurity on all guards of the parah adumah, whether or not they believe they have moved a limb.

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  • Is he impure mideoraita if he moves a limb other than during the course of preparing the animal for slaughter? I'm not so sure.
    – Zarka
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 15:26
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    Rabbi Martin S Cohen zeramim.org/past-issues/volume-ii-issue-3-spring-2018-5778/… interpreted it as being "to discourage the guard from touching the beast at all, lest he inadvertently induce some blemish in it and thus render it unacceptable for use".
    – Zarka
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 15:26
  • @zarka Rashi says it’s talking about guarding the animal after slaughter until it’s burnt
    – Joel K
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 15:39
  • @zarka See Rambam Hilchot Parah Adumah 5:1-2. Anyone who deals with the parah adumah from slaughter until it is burnt becomes impure
    – Joel K
    Commented Oct 5, 2020 at 16:04

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