The Balance Between the Body and Soul, Water and Fire

The quintessential nature of our devotion to God, which is why we were created in the first place, is relayed to us in the commandment of the red heifer. We are commanded to burn (fire) the red cow down to ashes and mix the ashes in a vessel containing pure water, which is then sprinkled on an impure person. The combination of water and the burning to ash is what brings purification to the impure.

Fire and water express two opposite elements and very different natures. Yet it is these two factors that are necessary to restore purity to someone who became impure and therefore detached from God, the source of all blessing.

Fire is the only thing in this world that travels upward. Everything yearns to go back to its source. Fire is constantly longing to connect with its source, which is up, while water, whose source is the ground, will always flow downward. Water will find all possible crevices and pathways through which it can travel down to its source.

These features of fire and water are at the root and backbone of our manner of worship (purity) and conduct in this world.

On the one hand, we are expected to feed our fire and the spirituality within to the point that we come to know that nothing in the physical world is enough. We must detach ourselves from this world because we recognize it as an obstacle to connecting with the source above. At the same time, we are expected to live in this world and bring down into it the light and water (nutrients) from above, all the way down to the lowest extremes of the physical world, so that they too can be imbued with the holiness of above.

The soul inside each one of us, the candle (fire) of God, and the body, which is mostly water, are exactly these two opposite expressions. The soul, being a candle of God, desires all the time to go higher. By its very nature, it seeks to attach to the more sublime and spiritual, while the body, whose source is from the earth, is always pulling the person to materialistic and hedonistic pursuits.

A person must find peace and balance between these two opposing forces that cause great inner conflict. On the one hand, we run after things that give us instant gratification. On the other hand, we realize how self-destructive and unfulfilling that can be, and we search for deeper and more meaningful pursuits.

A person must never give up his spiritual aspirations. In everything he comes in contact with, there must be a connection with Godliness — “In all your ways, you must know God.” In addition, he must draw holiness down so that “all your deeds should be for the sake of heaven.” He imbues every act of the day with the essence of God’s instructions in the Torah.

The successful blend of these two opposing forces inside of us, which brings purity, is apparent in the two central practices of prayer and the study of the Torah.

Prayer is a special opportunity when we meditate on the greatness of God and feed our fire within to yearn for and cleave to God above. The study of God’s wisdom in the Torah is like the aspect of water. When a person studies the Torah, he connects with what is above and draws down God’s wisdom and inspiration into all parts of this lowly world.

The red heifer is a reminder that only in the combination of fire and water, which is possible only in God’s world, we reach inner peace, purity, and a successful balanced life.

Chapter 105

About the Author
Rabbi Shlomo Ezagui is an author and lecturer. "A Spiritual Soul Book" & "Maimonides Advice for the 21st Century" Rabbi Ezagui opened in 1987 the first Chabad Center in Palm Beach County, Florida, and the first Orthodox Synagogue on the Island of Palm Beach, Florida.
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