And you shall give it to Elazar"; (Num. 19:3) the prescribed performing of the ritual [of the Red Heifer] is through the deputy to the High Priest (here Elazar) and they established it that way. What is the reason for Elazar (to do this) and not for Aaron? Because Aaron is the escort of the Queen [who brings Her the Shechinah to unite with Zeir Anpin; the matter of the Red Heifer is connected to birur/culling and choosing, associated with judgment and not with yichud/unification].

...Aaron is not rooted from the aspect of tahara/purity but rather from the side of the holy.

[Another reason it would be improper] is because Aaron is not rooted from the aspect of tahara/purity [which is rooted in the sefira of chesed of gevura] but rather from the side of the holy [that is rooted in the sefira of gevura of chesed]. Since the primary function of the red cow is for purification, the task was not given to him. [The soul of Aaron was rooted in Abba Ila'ah so he was complete chesed; this work certainly did not pertain to him. The souls of the other priests were rooted in different, lower levels, more aligned with the work of the Red Heifer.]

Every item that pertains to this cow is in sevens: seven washings, etc. And we have already learned this. What is the reason? It is because she [represents] the seven Sabbatical years [the secret of malchut and the 7 sefirot of Zeir Anpin leading to Her] and is called 'Bath-sheba' [lit. Daughter of Seven', because she is the one “daughter” of Zeir Anpin and therefore receives the light of all seven of his sefirot]. Therefore, all her rituals reflect the aspect of seven [and it is mentioned seven times in the Torah].

Come and see: all that is made from this cow is for the purpose of purification and not for sanctification [so it might seem more appropriate that the Levites perform this ceremony]. Even though it was given to the deputy [kohen to do], he does not perform the slaughtering or the burning [both acts relating to the sefira of gevura] so that no harsh judgment will be aroused through him. Even more so for Aaron, who is in a more perfected level [being related to the source of chesed in Abba Ila'ah]. This why he need not be present there [at the purification ceremonies] nor be found [at the burning of the cow to ashes, in order not to arouse judgment in the higher place of chesed].

As soon as this cow/para is burnt to ashes [thus reduced to its essence, gevura – represented by the five final letters MaNZePa"CH that have a gematria of PA"R (280). Now these ashes have been reduced to one aspect – aleph – and the smell reached the “nostrils” of Zeir Anpin to “sweeten” him. The cow/para has become ashes/efer] there is a requirement to throw into the flames: "cedar wood [tiferet] and hyssop [yesod] and a scarlet thread [gevura]" (Num. 19:6) as we have already learned [in the section dealing with Tzara'at]. "And a man that is pure [representing the gevurot of Zeir Anpin] shall gather the ashes up" (Ibid. 19:9) and not a holy man. "...and lay them outside the camp in a pure place..." [that has been purified beforehand] since nothing is called 'pure ' except that which was once impure. [Thus both the impure person and the sefira of malchut are raised up, first to become tahor/purified and then kadosh/holy].

...then these impure forces are weakened and they appear like the Red Heifer [broken at their source and exiled...]

The secret of all this [about the Red Heifer] is as written: "for the water of purification, it is a sin-offering". That is because all the lower judgments and all that come from the aspect of impurity [receive their energy from malchut] when she suckles from the Other Side, and she sits in judgment [and carries it out] as it says: "the sword of the Lord is filled with blood, it is made fat with fatness." (Isaiah 34:6) At that moment, all [forces outside of the holy] are stirred to rise up and dwell over the world [to execute the judgment]. But as soon as they perform that ritual [of sacrificial slaughtering and burning the Red Heifer] down below and the sentence is carried out in this [pure] place, with this [unique] cow, they throw on her the cedar wood [tiferet] and hyssop [yesod]. Then their energy is weakened [because the intention of the priest and his actions are to unite the higher sefirot of tiferet and yesod of Zeir Anpin with malchut] and then these impure forces are weakened and they appear like the Red Heifer [broken at their source and exiled from the camp and burnt]. Then, they do not dwell over a man [who had ritual impurity] and he becomes pure.

Therefore [the water mixed with the ashes that is sprinkled on the impure person] is called "water of nida", meaning for purification [of the sefira of malchut] needed when severe judgment dwells over the world [because of the grip of forces external to the holy] and the defiled aspect expands within it. Here [in the sefira of malchut] are gathered together a variety of unclean things and a variety of methods of purification. Consequently, defilement and purification are very important rules of the Torah [because through these laws we know how to purify and return the sefira of malchut to holiness] and the Colleagues have already explained this.

BeRahamim LeHayyim:

No wonder why the mystery of the Red Heifer eluded even the wisest of men King Solomon! The ashes of the Red Heifer when mixed with water and sprinkled help nullify disembodied death residue, the cause of the eerie feeling one gets in the vicinity of the dead.

The Zohar is explaining a Hok, a supra-rational commandment, and the various reasons why certain individuals could or could not participate in the ritual. It can lead us to a compelling metaphor:

At bottom, we each have a role in the self-purification process. Daily some pray: "G‑d, create for me a pure heart! (Psalm 51) A little work below is assisted much from above. We only need to open a space the size of a needle's eye through our own doing first. Take the severities of your life and burn them. {ashes of red heifer}. Add beauty/balance {cedar wood}, bonding/intimacy/connection/ communication {hyssop}, and discipline {scarlet} and sprinkle your spiritual concoction all over your non-physical self.

Bracketed annotations from Metok Midevash and Sulam commentaries
Copyright 2003 by, a project of Ascent of Safed (// All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, unless with permission, in writing, from Kabbala Online.