Relative sanctity - Mystery of Red Heifer

The Commandment of the Red Heifer.

 Red Cow qoute (photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
Red Cow qoute
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)

1. Foreword

The Commandment of the Red Heifer, cited in the Torah reading of Chukat, is the most irrational and at the same time inscrutable.  Despite the fact that virtually every Torah commentator who has analysed this commandment, has attempted to give explanations.

Let’s briefly recall some elements of  the commandment.

It determines the process of the purification of a person who has come into contact with a dead body. In order to conduct this ritual, a flawless red heifer that had never ploughed is needed. The heifer is then slaughtered outside the (Jewish) camp in the presence of the Kohen Gadol's Deputy. After that, the heifer was burned. The Deputy should have cleansed his robes and undergone a ritual ablution. Despite this, he remained ‘unclean’ until the evening came. The person responsible for burning the heifer should have undergone the same procedures, and he too remained ‘unclean’ until the evening came. A ritually ‘clean’ person should have collected the red heifer’s ashes .The ashes were then mixed with water. The resulting substance was used to purify a person who came into contact with a dead body. All the people who took part in the ritual should clean themselves and they remained impure until the evening. 

Everyone who came into contact with a dead body remained ‘impure’ for the next seven days. On the third and seventh days, the person had to purify himself by sprinkling his body with the water to which the red heifer’s ashes were added.

Should this person appear within the limits of the Temple (Tabernacle) while in an impure state, he was subjected to a punishment known as karet.

Our Sages raised two questions:

  1. If the red heifer is a Holy offering, why was it sacrificed outside the camp, instead of on the Altar? 
  2. The sacrifice was made for the purpose of purification. Why did its participants become ‘impure

The author states that in order to conduct a deep analysis of the red heifer commandment, one should also answer the following questions:

  1. Why did contact with a dead body cause ritual impurity?
  2. Why did the appearance of an ‘unclean’ person within the limits of the Temple result in him being subjected to the karet punishment?
  3. What is the meaning of the karet punishment?
  4. Why did the heifer have to be red?
  5. How were the red heifer’s ashes and water related to the cleansing ritual?

In this essay, the author attempts to answer the aforementioned questions from the position of the Kabbalah of Information.

2. What is death?

As mentioned in the foreword, contact with a dead body led to becoming ritually ‘impure – regardless of whether the body was that of a sinner or a righteous person.

According to Nachmanides (Ramban), the only exception was ‘death by the kiss’ (this will be explained in a subsequent article).  In that case, touching a dead body did not result in being ritually ‘impure.’ In order to understand why contact with a dead body led to impurity, we must answer the question,  ‘what is the dead body?’

On one hand, a dead body could be considered  ordinary matter; however, the Torah does not prohibit touching ordinary matter, nor does it prohibit contact with a living person (with a few exceptions). From that it follows that, a dead body represented a certain third state. But what state is it?

The difference between a dead body and a living body is that the former undergoes a certain process called death. Many definitions of life and death exist in modern scientific and philosophical literature, but none of them are complete and exhaustive.

According to the Kabbalah of Information, death is an irreversible cessation of an information exchange between the soul and the body in a certain information world. 

The Kabbalah of Information describes Creation as a unified information space, the static part of which is represented by concepts. The distance between the concepts in the information space is determined by the degree of likeness of their information content.

The information exchange between the soul and the body stops when the information distance between them increases as a result of change of information content of the soul or of the body. Death as a result of altering the informational content  of the soul is knows as ‘death by the kiss’ and will be discussed in subsequent articles.

2.1. The Concept of Death 

As described in my article Theory of Evil,  creation contains the information zone, which is called  the Other Side (Sitra Achra). It refers to a domain that contains concepts of anti-commandments of the Torah. G-d told Adam that he would die if he ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By violating G-d’s commandment, Adam entered the aforementioned domain that contained the anti-commandment ‘Eat the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.’ This anti-commandment is a point of entry to the domain  of the Other Side, and by entering it, Adam gained information of all anti-commandments – meaning of all kinds of Evil. According to Kabbalah, the soul of every human being is a part of the soul of Adam, and therefore we are all connected to the domain of the Other Side, which contains the concept of death.  Thus, contact with  a dead body establishes a connection to the concept of death, resulting in impurity.In his work The Gate of Reincarnation, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria wrote the following: “The Talmud says, “We understand that the Serpent imparted the spiritual dirt (zuhama) to Eve. This was also the case for Adam and all his descendants until the coming of the Messiah because all their souls were part of Adam’s soul in the moment of sin; therefore, all people die as a result of the “Serpent’s bite.” The spiritual dirt (zuhama) arising from Adam’s Sin can only be cleansed by death, not by repentance.”

In his Torah commentary, Rabbi Bachya ben Asher writes, “The fundamental reason behind all people being contaminated with “spiritual dirt” is related to the original cause of Death – the Serpent of Gan Eden.”

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