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Actual Ashes

Written by Rabbi Yehoshua Alt, 14/3/2020

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Fascinating Insights—The Sefer (in English)

Actual Ashes

R’ Chaim Vital once asked the Arizal if it is permitted to use the שמות הקדושים, holy names of Hashem or the שבועה of the Kadmonim that they used for practical Kabbala for knowledge of wisdom and the like. The Arizal answered those sages that used the holy names of Hashem had the ashes of the Parah Adumah (which purifies one from טומאת מת, coming into contact with the dead) like R’ Tarfon but we who are טמאי מתים are forbidden with these things.[1]


The Chida[2] writes one who wants to sanctify and separate himself from the ways of the world, even with great effort it won’t help because of the old and new impurities…It is obvious to me that the Arizal was purified with the ashes of the Parah Adumah through Eliyahu Hanavi and then wondrous Ruach Hakodesh rested on the Arizal…On a similar note, Eliyahu Hanavi would bring the ashes of the Parah Adumah to the Baal Shem Tov every Erev Yom Tov in order to purify him for Yom Tov.[3]


The Avodas Yisrael says that through the reading of Parshas Parah, one gets a spiritual purification.[4] On Shabbos Parshas Parah, the Beis Aharon[5] would say that one must believe just as the ashes of the Parah Adumah purify to offer the Korbon Pesach so too when we read Parshas Parah it purifies each one according to his level, for the light of Pesach. In the words of R’ Tzadok Hakohen:[6] reading Parshas Parah helps to purify one’s heart from the impurities of the Yetzer Hara.  

Rabbi Alt merited to learn under the tutelage of R’ Mordechai Friedlander Ztz”l for close to five years. He received Semicha from R’ Zalman Nechemia Goldberg. Rabbi Alt has written on numerous topics for various websites and publications. He lives with his wife and family in a suburb of Yerushalayim where he studies, writes and teaches. The author is passionate about teaching Jews of all levels of observance.

[1] Shulchan Aruch of the Arizal, Krias B’Chochmas HaKabbala, 12. See the Karbon Nesanel at the end of Mesachta Rosh Hashana, אות ס.

[2] Midbar Kedaimos, מערכת א, אות כו.

[3] Imrei Dvash, p. 16.

[4] Avodas Yisrael, Parshas Parah, s.v. והנה בשבת. See Sefas Emes, Parshas Parah, תרמא, s.v. וקבעו. Aruch Hashulchan, Orach Chaim, 685:7.

[5] Beis Aharon, p. קמד.

[6] Pri Tzadik, Parshas Parah, 1. See also 7. 

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