Parashat Parah gives us the paradoxical rule that when the ashes of a red heifer (parah adumah), mixed with various other substances, are sprinkled on a person who is ritually impure through contact with a dead body, the ashes purify him but ritually contaminate the person who administers the rite.
One and the same thing has two contradictory effects – it both removes impurity and causes impurity. This is a “statute”, a Torah law which must be obeyed out of faith and loyalty to the Almighty despite the apparent illogicality.
Nonetheless human minds throughout the ages continued to seek meaning in the parah adumah.
The Baal Shem Tov suggested that it symbolises basic human characteristics, especially pride. To a person who feels trapped by life and has low self-esteem, pride is a source of personal rehabilitation. It says, “You are a uniquely precious creation of the Divine Creator, a somebody, capable of self-elevation and achievement.”
To a person who is too self-opinionated, pride is a curse. To the person with too much self-pride, God says, “I and you cannot dwell in the same world.”