Printed from
The Zohar says: the red heifer is the 1st step towards unifying with G-d.

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon

Advanced Advanced
The Cow Jumped Over the Moon
The Zohar says: the red heifer is the 1st step towards unifying with G-d.

This is the ordinance of the Torah which the Lord has commanded, saying: "Speak to the people of Israel, that they may bring you a completely red heifer that has no blemishes and on which never came a yoke." (Num. 19:2)

This heifer was burnt outside the camp by the deputy High Priest, and its ashes were used to purify the ritually impure, enabling them to take part in Temple activities. Strangely, the one who sprinkles the water with the ashes becomes impure, while the one who is sprinkled becomes pure. It is thus called an "ordinance" (in Hebrew, "chok" - thus the name of the parasha) because it defies logic.

This heifer came to purify, and it purifies the impure. The five Hebrew letters that change form…represent distance from the light of the infinite…

The word "heifer" - in Hebrew "parah" - is made up of three Hebrew letters, peh, reish and hei. Peh and reish spell "par", meaning "heifer", and together their numerical value is 280 (80+200). The number 280 represents the 280 "dinim", strict judgments, the numerical value of the sum of the five Hebrew letters that change form when at the end of a word: mem, nun, tzadi, pei and chaf. Since they signal the end of a word they are equivalent to finality, the opposite of the infinite. They therefore represent distance from the light of the infinite.

This finality is further hinted at by the letter hei in the word "parah", which represents the sefira of malchut. As such, the word "parah" represents the sefira of malchut, removed from the influence of the infinite. It is this state that allows for the external forces, the forces of impurity, to flourish.

This heifer receives from the left side, and what is this "left side"? It is as is written, "The face of an ox on the left side…." (in the vision of the Divine Chariot, Ezekiel 1:10) Red like the color of a red rose…

The ox in the prophetic vision of Ezekiel, was on the left side of the chariot, symbolizing the connection between the ox (and therefore also the heifer) and the power of the left side, that of judgments. Not only does the type of beast used in this ceremony symbolize judgments, so does its color.

[This heifer must be] red like the color of a red rose. This is like the verse "As a rose among the thorns, so is my loved one among the maidens." (Songs 2:2) [The color] red refers to the strict judgments issued [by the sefira malchut].

Since judgments issue from the sefira of malchut, it is proper that the rectification of those judgments come from that sefira. These judgments are like the thorns on the rose.

[And what does the requirement that it be] "completely [red]" [in Hebrew, "temima"] mean? This is like the [two examples used to explain two types of damages payable] "the simple [in Hebrew, 'tam'] ox versus the ox liable to cause damage."

The Talmud in Baba Kamma divides the requirement to pay damages caused by an inherently dangerous animal like an ox, into two broad categories: the "simple" ox and the "inherently dangerous" ox. The simple ox is an innocuous animal; it can be assumed that its owner had no foreknowledge that it may unexpectedly cause damage by turning wild. The owner pays less for the damage caused by wild behavior for this ox than for an ox that has already caused damage, which should have been carefully supervised. This requirement that the heifer be unblemished therefore hints at a lesser level than strict judgments.

The "simple" ox represents weaker judgments; the "inherently dangerous" ox represents harsh judgments.

Also in our case [regarding the red heifer, where the verse says,] "simple" [in Hebrew, "temima", from the same word as "tam"] represents weaker judgments, which are in the lower [sefira of] gevura [within malchut]; this is the "unblemished" one. The higher [sefira of] gevura is harsh judgment, and it represents a strong and violent force. When the aspect of malchut within Zeir Anpin is rectified, it helps to make whole the partzuf of Nukva

The description of the heifer in the Torah thus teaches that it can be used to purify and bring back those who are not too far removed from the sefira of malchut. This is opposed to those who have fallen into the displeasure of the higher level of judgment of Zeir Anpin. We now see two places from which judgments issue. These are the sefirot of malchut and of gevura of Zeir Anpin. The latter is harsher and more difficult to appease - after all, it is more elevated and removed than the sefira of malchut.

"…that has no blemishes…" (Num. 19:2) is as is written "You are all beautiful, my love, and there is no blemish in you". (Songs 4:7)

"…and on which never came a yoke [in Hebrew, 'ole']". (Ibid.)

The word "yoke" is written in a defective way. It is spelled ayin lamed, without the letter vav in the middle that usually appears. The numerical value of the word "ole" is 100 (ayin, 70 + lamed, 30). This hints at the 10 sefirot of Zeir Anpin each in turn made up of ten (10 X 10 = 100). This influence of Zeir Anpin has not touched the red heifer, as we shall see. The number 100 also hints at the 100 blessings which we say every day as a rectification of the sefira of malchut.

This is as in the verse "And these are the last words of David who spoke as David the son of Jesse, the speech of the man who was raised up on high [in Hebrew, "al", spelled like "ole" above: ayin, lamed]. (Samuel II, 23:1)

King David represents the sefira of malchut, and his activities were all in order to manifest this sefira on earth. Midrash Rabba (18:17) comments on this verse that King David established the "yoke" of repentance and established the requirement to say 100 blessings each day to rectify and sweeten the sefira of malchut.

What is the reason? It is because she [malchut] is the completion of the belief of Israel.

The Zohar is asking, "What is the reason for Zeir Anpin to be rectified in its aspect of malchut through these 100 blessings?" The sefira of malchut is found within each of the 10 sefirot of Zeir Anpin. She can thus be seen to complete Zeir Anpin. It is important to note that when the aspect of malchut within Zeir Anpin is rectified, it helps to make whole the partzuf of Nukva, itself a "terrestrial" manifestation of the sefirotic component of malchut. Nukva…is rectified in the mystery of the red heifer in a way that is unusual…

The phrase "belief [in Hebrew, 'emunim'] of Israel" is a play on words, since "emunim" can be read "amenim" - meaning amens, hinting that the 100 daily blessings, to each of which is answered "amen", completes the sefirot of Zeir Anpin.

"And on which never came a yoke", not on her but with her. This is as is written: "The virgin of Israel has fallen." (Amos 5:2) "A virgin and no man has known her." (Gen. 24:16)

This requirement of having no yoke "on" her shows that Nukva is being represented as a virgin in respect to Israel, referred to as Zeir Anpin, the masculine attribute. Nukva is "jumping over the moon", standing independently of the higher spiritual world, and is rectified via the mystery of the red heifer in a way that is unusual because it is specifically designed to prepare her for unification with Zeir Anpin rather than actually bring her into unity with Zeir Anpin. Once an individual's general attribute of Nukva is completed, i.e. purified, he can proceed into the presence of the Divine - the Tabernacle or Temple. Put another way, once we have raised our consciousness through the meditation on the 100 blessings that represent the sefirot of malchut in all of the levels of Zeir Anpin, we can then prepare malchut's manifestation in the partzufim, Nukva, for unification with the higher spiritual aspects of Zeir Anpin.

Zohar, parashat Chukat, p.180b; translation and commentary by Simcha-Shmuel Treister

Copyright 2003 by All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, also know by the acronym "Rashbi," lived in the Holy Land in the 2nd century C.E. A disciple of Rabbi Akiva, Rashbi played a key role in the transmission of Torah, both as an important Talmudic sage and as author of the Zohar, the most fundamental work of Kabbalah. He was buried in Meron, Israel, west of Safed.
Shmuel-Simcha Treister is a lawyer from New Zealand who made aliya to Safed with his family in 1993 to study Zohar. He continues doing so to this day. He also works in the Ascent multi-media center.
Join the discussion
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Related Topics

The larger, bold text is the direct translation of the classic text source.

The smaller, plain text is the explanation of the translator/editor.
Text with broken underline will provide a popup explanation when rolled over with a mouse.