Tikkun and Chidush: A Fresh Start

How can one fix what seems to be hopelessly shattered?

When we have reached the end, how can we begin again?

The elusive answer is hidden in the purifying ashes of the Red Heifer.

Body, Soul and Healthy Circulation

When the body is healthy, the blood flows freely and a person feels healthy, strong, and alive. If, God forbid, circulation is impinged, then a person feels weak and low on energy. In the extreme, with blockage, a limb, and even one’s life, can be in immediate danger.

Just like there is a circulatory system in the body, there is a spiritual life force that flows from the soul: And the middot, the character traits of a person—along with one’s thoughts, actions and words— constitute the spiritual pathways through which flows ones inner life force.

Positive, good, and pure character, thoughts, and actions enable a healthy inner system to function, while the opposite is also true. Poor character, choices and actions impede, and in the extreme, clog the free flow of our inner light.

The Torah tells us that, “God made man yashar, straight.” This teaches us that we are people of natural, essential, integrity and goodness, and that spiritually speaking, we came into this world healthy and strong. However, with the first transgression of Adam, this pure, natural integrity and goodness was lost. From that point on, life became a confounding, challenging web of self-defeating, tumah-breeding, lusts and desires that inhibit the healthy flow of ohr, of one’s spiritual, inner life force. This is the sod, the deeper, beneath-the-surface meaning of the introduction of death that was the natural consequence of Adam’s sin.

Wherever we find death, we find tumah, spiritual impurity. The two always go hand-in-hand.

The tumah associated with dead animals and insects, or with human body fluid emissions, are always related to death, to a cessation of life, or an end to the potential for life. Flaws in our character, thoughts, and actions bring tumah in their wake; an impeding of the healthy flow of light, and life, within the “veins” of our very being.

Restoring Health

The procedure of the Red Heifer reverses the impure, tumah impact of coming into contact with a dead body. There are levels of tumah, and tumat meit, that resulting from a dead body, is the most invasive, fundamental type of tumah. This parallels the sin of Adam that impacted humans in the deepest, most fundamental—fundamentally unhealthy—way possible. To rectify this profound damage, to “cure” death itself, a “treatment” is needed that goes to the very source of the problem. The Red Heifer procedure instructs us how to repair and restore spiritual health at the deepest, root level.

Indeed, the Red Heifer parallels the very creation of man.

“And a mist rose up from the ground and watered the face of the earth, and God fashioned the man from the earth.”

Our sages tell us that this was like the mixing of dirt and water to create the material body into which God breathed a living soul. This is reflected in the Red Heifer procedure when the ashes are mixed together with water. At the beneath-the-surface spiritual plane, this is far more than a reenactment of creation. This is an action that reaches deep down to the depths of the human soul. In a sense, at the soul level, this is like a potter that molds a pot from clay, then crushes it back to it’s original unformed ball of clay, and then once again engages in the work of reshaping and forming a new, beautiful piece of pottery.

We find a similar phenomena when it comes to the relationship of immersing in a mikveh and undoing of tumah. The womb-like mikveh waters take a person back to a pre-birth state of purity.

The Unsullied Essence

The fact that the possibility exists to go back to the primordial place of original purity and integrity tells us that, in truth, that deepest root source of life, that pre-birth state of being, is never really impacted; it’s never sullied, never actually tainted by tumah. Yes, tumah does have spiritually damaging consequences, it infects, so to speak, our person. But not our essence, not our neshama.

This tells us something of critical importance. We need to know that no matter our transgressions, no matter how many mistakes we make, and wrong turns we take in life—our deepest, truest self—our souls, are forever pristine and pure. There, deep inside, the light is always shining and radiant. Whatever darkness we bring into our lives, our ohr, our inner, spiritual light can never be dimmed, and certainly never extinguished.

Yes, we may feel spiritually and morally lethargic and weak; we may feel like the pathways of our life force have been clogged and damaged, but it’s critical to know: No. No matter what, at their deepest roots, our souls are always healthy, pure, strong, and vibrant. And that inner, radiating health is forever there in waiting; waiting to be brought back to the surface where it can fully and openly express and manifest itself in every aspect of our lives.

Every morning we say, “My God, the neshama that You placed in me; it is tahor, pure.”

Life is an ongoing, day-after-day struggle, and therefore we begin every day with a singular focus: Our soul is untouchable, it’s forever pure, and Hashem Himself is the guardian and protector of that eternal inner beauty. No matter what we may do, no matter our transgressions—yes they have consequences, profound consequences—but not so deep that they sully our souls.

This awareness enables us to always go back to our truest, “original,” self. To who we were when we were born, and to who we are, deep down, even now. No matter how shattered we may feel, no matter how lost: Deep down we’re never really broken at all, and certainly never lost.

With honest longing for our best selves; with sincere regret for our mistakes, with genuine commitment to begin again: We can. We can begin again, because our original self is where it always was. Right there inside. Right there, always within our heart’s reach.

There is a hidden light within each of us.

At times it’s flow, it’s spiritual illumination, may be impeded, but it’s always there.


Never dimmed.

Never shattered.

Always shining.

Always waiting.

Always us.


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Translated and adapted by Shimon Apisdorf