Friday, March 13, 2015
Parashas Parah 5635 Second Ma'amar
This week we read the laws of the red heifer. The red heifer's ashes purify. The Torah tells us to burn not only the heifer, but also wood from a cedar and a hyssop, and a scarlet thread.
Rashi1 cites a Midrash2 explaining that metaphorically the entire procedure of the red heifer is a purification and atonement for the sin of the golden calf. In this context the cedar tree which is very tall represents one whose arrogance causes him to sin. The hyssop grows low to the ground and the scarlet thread in Hebrew is synonymous with the Hebrew word for worm. These represent humility. The Midrash states that a haughty person who sinned should humble himself like a hyssop and a worm. Haughtiness causes a person to sin. Humility prevents it.
The Sfas Emes asks, why is the cedar wood in the ash mixture? The cedar representing arrogance is what we want to stay away from. Shouldn't the mixture contain only the symbols of humility, the character trait that we strive to attain?
The Sfas Emes explains that the cedar wood is part of the ash mixture because arrogance can actually be used as a tool for reaching humility. When a person who is arrogant contemplates God, he is moved to ask himself, how can his heart be filled with arrogance before the Master of everything? Inevitably he is humbled and overcome with shame.
This itself is a rectification for the sin of haughtiness. May we merit it. Amen!
1 Bamidbar 19:22, Eitz Erez
2 Bamidbar R. 19:3