Friday, March 25, 2011

Parshas Parah 5631 Third Ma'amar

The mitzvah of the red heifer involves mixing the ashes of the red heifer with water and sprinkling the mixture on an impure person thus purifying him.  Paradoxically, Chazal[1] teach us that the red heifer also makes a pure person impure.  Why does the red heifer have this quality of making the impure pure and the pure impure?

The Sfas Emes teaches that the answer lies in understanding the symbolism of the ashes.  Ashes are inert and they have very little value.  Accordingly ashes symbolize laziness and bitul.    

Each of us has a fundamental life force within that defines us.  It is who we really are.  Everything else about us is like a garment that surrounds us.  Everything else is an outer trapping.  Bitul means shedding the external garment and recognizing the real us. 

An important way of doing this is by cultivating a sense of shiflus/lowliness.  Lowliness is not to be confused with low self esteem.  Just the opposite is true.  Shiflus/Lowliness means that we recognize that our external desires are outer trappings to our real self.  When we recognize our inner true self, we defeat low self esteem every time.

It's only the outer trappings that become impure.  Our inner self or inner life force is Godly and is always pure.  So, by practicing bitul we can become spiritually pure.

Ashes also represent laziness.  Someone who is lazy actually is suffering from low self esteem.  As a result this person cannot stimulate himself to do anything.  But low self esteem is a part of our outer trappings.  It is not connected to a person's true inner self.

Superficially, bitul and low self esteem look the same, like the ashes of the red heifer.  In reality, they are opposites.  The former is a way of experiencing God and becoming spiritually pure.  The latter distances one from God and leads to spiritual impurity.  This is the reason that the ashes of the red heifer make the pure impure and the impure pure.

[1] Bamidbar R. 19:1

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