"i would not grap something for SuSE or Fedora b/c i run red hat. is there any worries i should have about doing that. should i only grab the rpm for red hat 7.3."
When you use rpms compiled for later versions of Red Hat than 7.3 you might run into version dependency problems. For example, the most common dependency is glibc. Red Hat 9 has a later version of glibc than Red Hat 7.3. So the latest version of a package such as openssl that has been compiled on Red Hat 9 may or may not work with the older version of glibc found in Red Hat 7.3. This is also true for any other dependency.
This problem is compounded by the fact that the dependency checking in the rpm packages is imperfect. For example, the openssl rpm may check to make sure that glibc exists but may or may not check glibc version numbers when in fact there is a glibc version number dependency.
The incompatibility problem is increased when you use rpms from different distributions because different distributions store programs in different places. For example, SuSE stores all window managers in /opt and Red Hat does not use /opt at all.
"similarly, i run "apt-get install openssl" to get fix problems and it won't upgrade...says "openssl is already the newest version." 0.6b....which is much lower than "d" or "f". does this happen b/c i'm running 7.3 so it just grabs the highest version for 7.3 and not highest version of all?"
I think that it just grabs the highest version compatible with Red Hat 7.3.
"Is it wrong of me to upgrade to the packages higher than my OS, with openssl or any package? i surely hope not b/c i've been doing the contrary this whole time."
It is not absolutely wrong, but it increases the chance of a version mismatch. When you want to make large "leaps" in version numbers like this you are more likely to be successful if you compile the latest version from source on your Red Hat 7.3 system than if you install a binary rpm that was compiled on a Red Hat 9 system. Compiling yourself does not guarentee compatibility, it just makes it more likely.
Be prepared. Create a LifeBoat CD.