Kabbalistic Concepts

The Forces of Purity

There is a fundamental paradox that the commentators speak about concerning the portion of Chukat and the process of removing the Tumat HaMet, impurity of death, from someone who had been around, or touched, a dead body. There were two main ingredients in the mixture that was used to remove the force of death: remnants of the burning of the Parah Adumah, red heifer, and living water. They were mixed together and sprinkled in a certain way, on certain days, upon a person who had become impure from death, and that impurity was removed. However, although the person who was originally impure became pure through this process, the person who was making him pure and began this process being pure, became impure. And such is the paradox.

Throughout the generations, kabbalists have asked why, if this mixture brings purity to the impure, does it then make the pure person impure? There have been many different answers to this question, but there is something very beautiful that one of the students of the Maharal said that I’d like to share, which I think is also a fundamental understanding for our spiritual work. He uses the example of fruit, that it can be pure or impure; if a person who is impure touches a fruit, the fruit takes upon that energy. But a fruit can only become impure if it first touched water. If it never touched water, then even if an impure person touches it, it can’t become impure. Why is that?

We know that water represents purity, and spiritual forces, he says, only affect their opposites. Therefore, the force of the water, which is the opposite state of the person who is connected to death, is going to purify him. While on the other hand, the pure person isn’t affected by the water, but the burning of the red heifer connects him to, and awakens within him, impurity - the opposite of his current state. Each force, as we see, has an influence on the person in its opposite state.

So, what he teaches about this is not only an important understanding, but also answers many questions regarding why sometimes in our spiritual work we don’t always see the manifestation of what the tools should bring. As we’ve discussed before, the most powerful tool that we have to bring Light, blessings, and transformation is the Zohar. However, if we understand this teaching, we understand that in order for the Light of the Zohar, this powerful spiritual force, to have an affect on us, we need to have a true understanding of the state of impurity within which we reside. For example, if one person is in a state of relative elevation and another in a very low state, the Light of the Zohar will have the greater effect on the person in the lower state, because the Light of the Zohar is the Light of ultimate purity and will only affect a person who is in the opposite state. It will have little or no effect on someone who is, or at least in his own consciousness thinks he is, on the same level. This goes both ways, as we said: forces of impurity only affect those who are on the higher level, while forces of purity only affect those who are on the lower level.

When we truly understand this, we begin to appreciate why we can be doing so much of the spiritual work, coming to Shabbat, connecting to the Zohar, and so on, but the result, or effect, is not as great as it could be. The person who is coming from a place of zero, in whose mind needs this wisdom, therefore putting himself in the place of being in the opposite state of wisdom, will then be affected by the wisdom in a great way. But for the person who thinks he has wisdom, the Light and these tools will have a lesser effect.

What this means for us is that if we want each Shabbat, each time we make a connection, or each time we read Zohar to have a real influence, we have to come from a place of the opposite of that Light and wisdom, and that is when it can elevate us. Yet, if we say to ourselves, “Oh, yeah I’ll have some more Light on this Shabbat, or through this connection… it’s nice, it’s comfortable, I’ll get a little bit of It,” then we’ll get some Light, but the effect is much more diminished than if we came with the understanding that there is so much we need to elevate and transform.

The forces of purity, whether they are Shabbat, the Parah Adumah, the Zohar, and so forth, have the greatest effect on those who know in their consciousness that they are in the opposite state of that Light and that force. Therefore, on Shabbat Chukat, and always, may we be the opposite of the Light, so that the Light can truly have the greatest effect on us.

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