We must serve hashem with our evil desires, how is this possible? The mysterious ritual of the red cow sheds light on how prayer can sacrifice our evil temptations and ultimately transform them into good.
By Rabbi Boruch Merkur
It says you must love hashem with both your inclinations and that this is a profound mystery. What is the mystery isn’t it obvious that we must utilize everything to serve hashem including the animal soul? The reason it’s a mystery is because this doesn’t only mean that we must overcome the temptations of our evil inclination to do good, rather it means that the sinful desire itself is intended to be used for holiness. How can the desire to sin possibly be used to serve hashem?
This is accomplished by refusing to participate in the desires of the evil inclination until the temptation is removed entirely. Then the core of the animal inclination is revealed which is a neutral force of potential. Now it can be harnessed by the forces of good and those very desires can be completely transformed to holiness to the extent that they even compel you to do good. This transformation of the evil inclination is such a great accomplishment that it is beyond anything the good inclination can achieve on its own.
This idea of transforming the evil inclination is exemplified by the ritual of the red cow. In this ritual we sacrifice the red cow which represents our desires and corresponds to the bull which sits on the left side of the divine chariot. The sacrifice is burnt until all that remains is dust which represents its indestructible core. This is analogous to how we must burn away the sins from our animal soul until all that remains is its essence which is a pure neutral force uncorrupted by evil which is now ready to be transformed into holiness.
This transformation is not an easy process and often requires divine assistance which is available to us through prayer. This is the reason king dovid compared himself to a worm, because the power of a worm comes from its mouth as it produces silk and can even destroy a tree using just its mouth. This is what king dovid meant that he was like a worm in the sense that all of his power came from using his mouth through prayer. As is known that the evil inclination is destroyed before the voice of yaakov. Likewise through prayer we are granted the divine assistance that not only allows us to destroy the evil inclination but to transform it into a force for good.