Parashah 31: Emor (Say!)
Vayikra “He called” (Leviticus) 21:1-24:23
Yechezk'el (Ezekiel) 44:15-31
by Messianic Teacher Dr. Daniel Boley
1 Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to the cohanim, the sons of Aharon; tell them: 'No cohen is to make himself unclean for any of his people who dies, 2 except for his close relatives – his mother, father, son, daughter and brother; 3 he may also make himself unclean for his virgin sister who has never married and is therefor dependent on him. 4 He may not make himself unclean, because he is a leader among his people; doing so would profane him.
• No representative of Adonai is to make himself (/herself) unclean
Like the cohen we can make ourselves unclean by touching, getting involved, or doing unclean or dead things, i.e. the works of the flesh / works that lead to death
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21)
Therefore, leaving behind the initial lessons about the Messiah, let us go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of turning from works that lead to death, trusting God, 2 and instruction about washings, s'mikhah, the resurrection of the dead and eternal punishment. 3 And, God willing, this is what we will do. (Heb 6:1-3)
For if the sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity; 14 then how much more the blood of the Messiah, Who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God! (Heb 9:13-14)
Even if it's a family member that is wanting us to get involved in these things, we need to do whatever we can, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to stay “clean” before the LORD
Yes, think about Him who endured such hostility against Himself from sinners, so that you won't grow tired or become despondent. 4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in the contest against sin. (Heb 12:3-4)
This prohibition would have been well known in Yeshua's day. It would have been no surprise that a cohen would pass by what looked like a corpse in Yeshua's parable (Luke 10:31). Rules for Levites were not as strict as those for priests, but defilement would still be avoided. According to the IVP Bible Background Commentary, New Testament, Pharisees expounded on this “if even one's shadow touched the corpse.” (PC Study Bible, electronic database.)
There is, however, an overarching belief among all those who practice living out Scripture that “life trumps law.” So pervasive is this principle that its affect is felt for generations, even when those generations do not fully understand its source: the Creator of Life.
This may help explain why there are so many Jewish doctors, and so many hospitals and charitable organizations that have been started by Christians.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P'rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah – justice, mercy, trust. These are things you should have attended to – without neglecting the others! (Matt 23:23)
Part of the liturgy regularly recited every Shabbat is the Sh'mah (Deut 6:4-8) followed by, “And you shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18). On these two commandments pivot the entire Law and the Prophets (Matt 22:40). Amen.”
5 Cohanim are not to make bald spots on their heads, mar the edges of their beards or cut gashes in their flesh.
Not to make bald spots on their heads
The Hebrew here indicates that this is a permanent prohibition as with the “ten Commandments” ( לֹא [lo]), and that it is
emphatic ( יִקְרְחוּ קָרְחָה [yik-reh-khu kar-khah]); notice the same root letters (קרח) in both words
This is obviously not a natural baldness over which there is no control, but what could be the problem with a priest of God shaving his head?
not to ... mar the edges of their beards
וּפְאַת זְקָנָם לֹא יְגַלֵּחוּ
yeh-ga-leh-khu lo zeh-ka-nam u-peh-aht
to shave/lay waste not their beard & the corner, edge, extremity
This has led some religious Jews to not cut their “sideburns,” resulting in long side curls called “pe'ahs” (from the root of the first word in this phrase: פֵּאָה )
But does this prohibition require the growing of “pe'ahs”?
The last phrase of this verse is “or cut gashes in their flesh”:
וּבִבְשָׂרָם לֹא יִשְׂרְטוּ שָׂרָטֶת
sah-rah-teht yis-reh-tu lo u-viv-sah-rahm
an incision/cut to incise/cut no & in their flesh
notice the permanent prohibition (לֹא) and emphatic repetition ( יִשְׂרְטוּ שָׂרָטֶת ); notice the same root letters (שׂרט) in both words
The first three rules in Bible study being: context, context, and CONTEXT! we know there must be some connection between this particular baldness, beard cutting, and flesh cutting.
Rashi writes that this “prohibition against making baldness relates to the whole head and not only to between the eyes, and also it relates to the practice in connection with the dead” (The Soncino Chumash, 740, emphasis mine). We see this connection by reading verse 1.
Abraham Ibn Ezra says the prohibition to cutting the corners of the beard is “in connection with the dead as is practiced in some Chaldean countries” (ibid, 741, emphasis mine).
Connection of the cut beard with death can be seen in ancient practice of pagan Egypt.
Despite the apparent low esteem of facial hair during life, the beard was considered to be a divine attribute of the gods, whose closely plaited beards were "like lapis lazuli". In accordance with this religious formula, the pharaoh would express his status as a living god by wearing a false beard secured by a cord on certain occasions. Such beards were usually wider toward the bottom, as in the triad statues of Menkaura. So prevalent was this type of beard in formal royal portraiture, that even Queen Hatshepsut is depicted wearing a false beard. In death, the kings were frequently portrayed wearing the divine Osird form of the beard, which was a long, narrow beard of several strands plaited like a pigtail with the end jutting forward, as on the gold mask of Tutankhamun. Even deceased non-royal men were shown with short, tuft-like beards. (http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/beards.htm, accessed 05 May 15)
We see the practice of self-mutilation (cutting themselves) as part of demonic idol worship in 1 Kings 18:28, “So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and knives, as their custom was, until blood gushed out all over them.”
“Priests have the special injunction to keep themselves pure and holy because it is their responsibility to bring offerings to God. As a result, their skin and hair must remain intact, free of blemish or injury, as a testimony to that holiness. Thus they are prohibited from engaging in the mourning practices common in Canaan of gashing themselves, tearing their hair or shaving their beard. In fact it would be shameful for them to present themselves in any condition that was not holy” (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 135).
We see an example of the Canaanite practice in Jer 41:5
Of course, part of the immediate context of verse 5 is verse 6:
Rather, they are to be holy for their God and not profane the name of their God. For they are the ones who present Adonai with offerings made by fire, the bread of their God; therefore they must be holy.
“Rather” / “instead of this,” they are to be holy for their God.
Sin has been described as “doing something contrary to who you are in Christ.”
These prohibited actions honor death and demons. We are to honor life and the LORD.
Eliyahu stepped forward before all the people and said, “How long are you going to jump back and forth between two positions? If Adonai is God, follow Him; but is it's Ba'al, follow him!” The people answered him not a word. (1 Kings 18:21)
I am reminded of the opening words to the Paul Wilbur song, Great I AM, “I want to be close, close to Your side, where heaven is real and death is a lie ….” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ibw4usq9-g, accessed 16May16)
In Messiah, we too, have been called to be the LORD's priests and His temple
But you are a chosen people, the King's cohanim, a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. (1 Pet 2:9)
Don't you know that you people are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you? 17 So if anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you yourselves are that temple. (1 Cor 3:16-17)
Or don't you know that your body is a temple for the Ruach HaKodesh Who lives inside you, Whom you received from God? The fact is, you don't belong to yourselves: 20 for you were bought at a price. So use your bodies to glorify God. (1 Cor 6:19-20)
What agreement can there be between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God – as God said, “I will house Myself in them, … and I will walk among you. I will be their God, and they will be My people.” (2 Cor 6:15)
Commandment / Prohibition Reason
Vs 7 the priest is to be careful who he marries Because he is holy for his God
Vs 8 the priest is to be holy Because Adonai is holy
Vs 12 the priest not to leave or profane sanctuary Because the consecration of the anointing oil of God is on him
Vs 13 the priest is to marry a virgin from own people & not disqualify descendants Because Adonai makes him holy
Vs 16f no one with defect to go before LORD Because Adonai makes them holy
1 Adonai said to Moshe, 2 “Tell Aharon and his sons to separate themselves from the holy things of the people of Isra'el which they set apart as holy for Me, so that they will not profane My holy name; I am Adonai. 3 Tell them, 'Any descendant of yours through all your generations who approaches the holy things that the people of Isra'el consecrate to Adonai and is unclean will be cut off from before Me; I am Adonai.
• Regardless of position, lineage, or heritage, man in his own right is unclean and must remain separate from holy things so as not to profane God's holy Name.
◦ Since the Fall every person born with a human father has inherited a sinful nature. This is why we must be born again of the Spirit of God by accepting what Yeshua has done for us. (John 3)
▪ While every person is a special and unique creation of God, not every person is a child of God.
• He was in the world – the world came to be through Him – yet the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own homeland, yet His own people did not receive Him. 12 But to as many as did receive him, to those who put their trust in His person and power, He gave the right to become children of God, 13 not because of bloodline, physical impulse or human intention, but because of God. (John 1:10-13)
• All who are led by God's Spirit are God's sons. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to bring you back again into fear; on the contrary, you received the Spirit, who make us sons and by whose power we cry out, “Abba!” (that is, “Dear Father!”). 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our own spirits that we are children of God; 17 and if we are children, then we are also heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with the Messiah – provided we are suffering with Him in order also to be glorified with him. (Rom 8:14-17)
• All that is holy belongs to the LORD; whether people, places, or things.
◦ We must be careful how we act, react, and deal with the holy “so that they will not profane My holy Name ….”
▪ How we treat whatever is holy reflects our attitude toward the LORD.
▪ You who take such pride in Torah, do you, by disobeying the Torah, dishonor God? – 24 as it says in the Tanakh, “For it is because of you that God's name is blasphemed by the Goyim.” (Rom 2:23-24)
4a Any descendant of Aharon with tzara'at or a discharge is not to eat the holy things until he is clean.
• “tzara'at” is a transliteration of the Hebrew צָרַעַת , which comes from צָרַע [tzar-rah]. For centuries צָרַע and צָרַעַת have been mistakenly translated as leprosy, a fearful disease not well understood at the time. (The Complete Jewish Bible I normally quote from here uses a transliteration, the NIV “infectious skin disease,” and the NLT renders צָרַעַת / צָרַע as “skin disease” with a footnote saying, “Traditionally rendered leprosy. The Hebrew word used throughout this passage is used to describe various skin diseases.”)
◦ Leprosy, also known as Hansen's Disease, may cause areas of the skin to lose it normal coloration, but will not turn it “white as snow” as צָרַעַת is said to do in Scripture (cf e.g. Ex 4:6; Num 12:10; 2 Kings 5:27).
▪ see e.g. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1104977-clinical#b4, (accessed 17May16) noting the annotations concerning hypopigmented maculae and plaques.
◦ Unlike leprosy, צָרַעַת may affect garments (e.g. Lev 13:47-59) turning the affected linen, wool, or leather greenish or reddish.
◦ Unlike leprosy, צָרַעַת may also affect houses (e.g. Lev 14:34-57) turning the affected stone or plaster greenish or reddish.
▪ Although studies demonstrate the viability of the leprosy causing bacteria under various conditions on inanimate objects, (see e.g. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8637382, accessed 18May16), the bacteria does not actually affect the inanimate objects themselves.
• A Christian Medical Fellowship note, Differential Diagnosis 11, touches on this subject:
Leprosy (or Hansen's disease) is an infectious condition caused by the pathogen Mycobacterium leprae which was first described in 1847. It is characterised initially by a macular rash, progressing to dermal nodules most commonly on the nose, face, extensor sufaces of the limbs and the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. Later there is chronic ulceration, with lymph node and peripheral nerve involvement.
By contrast, the disease process called 'leprosy' in older English translations of the Bible (Hebrew sara'at, Greek lepra) was characterised by white skin and hair, thickening and infiltration of the skin and ulceration (Lev 13:3-28). It could also appear on the walls of homes, on items made from leather and as a mildew on linen or wool. (Lev 14:33-53)
True leprosy does not affect other objects in this way and whiteness of the hair (leucotrichia) does not occur, despite the fact that leucoderma may result from scarring. (http://www.cmf.org.uk/resources/publications/content/?context=article&id=498, accessed 19May16)
• The fact that a person may be suddenly afflicted with and cleansed from צָרַעַת / צָרַע , and that it can also affect certain inanimate personal objects has led some to the conclusion that צָרַעַת / צָרַע is a supernatural manifestation indicative of the individuals current spiritual condition.
◦ Either way, praise God for His provision of cleansing and healing in Messiah!
▪ By Megan Coffee, MD - Reviewed by a board-certified physician.
Updated September 07, 2015
Leprosy lives in historical tales and Bible stories. It's an ancient disease that created fear and stigma. It's a disease that exists today. It continues to infect people around the world, though many fewer, in areas where medical care has been slower to stamp out this curable disease.
What causes leprosy?
Leprosy is caused by bacteria - Mycobacteria leprae (as well as newly identified bacteria called Mycobacteria lepromatosis).
It is a slow growing bacteria. Symptoms may not begin for 2-10 years.
It is thought that most people - 95% in fact - are immune. Only a small number of people have the genes that make them susceptible to Leprosy.
How many are infected?
There were around 180,000 chronic and 215,000 new cases in 2014. There were however over 5 million chronic cases in the 1980s. Over 15 million have been cured since multidrug treatment began in the 1980s. About 2 million are permanently disfigured or disabled as a result of past disease.
The WHO has targeted Leprosy for elimination from countries where it continues to spread.
What does it cause?
Leprosy particularly affects skin, mucus membranes, and nerves. For some, this causes skin to become numb and lose color; for others this causes disfiguration, loss of fingers, and pain and weakness.
There are different types of Leprosy.
Some with Leprosy have Paucibacillary disease with a few light colored skin lesions without sensation.
Some have just one lesion.
More serious disease is seen with Multibacillary disease (MB). This is the classic disease recorded in history.
Some effects in Multibacillary disease can be disfiguring, including:
Skin color fading or discolored
Skin growths and nodules/bumps
Thick, stiff, or dry skin
Effects of Multibacillary disease are also on nerves, causing:
Paralysis especially of hands and feet
Vision Loss, Blindness
Additional effects of MB disease on mucus membranes can lead to:
Loss of sensation in hands and feet can lead to accidents and further problems.
Some may also lose fingers and toes.
The differentiation of these types of Leprosy can be made from a skin biopsy. In reality, there are often not skin-smear services available where Leprosy is. Instead classification is by examining the patient and noting how many lesions and nerves are affected.
What happens next?
Most cases of leprosy - even without any treatment - will cure spontaneously, especially the tuberculoid and indeterminate types.
There is however treatment.
The first treatment - dapsone -was started in 1945, but resistance developed and response was imperfect. In 1981, multidrug treatment was started. Treatment drugs are free for all with Leprosy from the WHO. However, many patients exhaust finances paying for costs for medical appointments, transport, radiologic imaging and other tests.
For Mulibacillary (MB), treatment is usually for 1 year often with Rifampicin, Dapsone, Clofazimine (some meds daily, some once a month). For Paucibacillary (PB). dapsone and rifampicin for 6 months (again mixed daily/monthly dosing). For a single lesion: single dose of Rifampicin, Ofloxacin, Minocycline.
How does it spread?
Leprosy is sometimes called the "least contagious of contagious diseases".
The interesting thing is we still don't know exactly how a disease known for several millennia spreads.
The bacteria spreads from person-to-person. Short casual contact does not seem to risk spread. It appears to spread to those few who are susceptible through a cough or sneeze, leading to droplets - maybe from mucus membranes in the nose or mouth/throat - landing on another's mucus membranes in the nose, mouth, or throat. These secretions and droplets do contain the bacteria.
It is rare for transmission to occur after exposures. So it has been difficult to identify how this happens.
Yes. Cases in the US have been traced back to contact with armadillos. So don't touch armadillos.
Armadillos are the only animal - besides other people - that is known to spread leprosy.
Where is Leprosy found?
Leprosy occurs around the world. Most cases are limited to a handful of countries: Angola, Brazil, the Central African Republic, India, Madagascar, Nepal and Tanzania as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mozambique. These are countries that have over 1 in 10,000 infected. Most cases (over 50%) occur in India. The US has about 200 a year.
What sort of bacteria causes leprosy?
The bacteria causing Leprosy is a Mycobacteria, which makes it a relative of Tuberculosis.
How is it diagnosed?
A skin biopsy is usually used, if available. Diagnosis is sometimes based on clinical presentation alone. Some blood tests for antibodies are used, but not in the US as the tests do not provide clear results.
Isn't this called Hansen's Disease?
Yes, Leprosy is also called Hansen's Disease. Many prefer this term because it avoids the stigma associated with leper or accordingly with leprosy. Historically, many were shunned from their communities or families for having this disease. or having the disease and historically thought to be at fault or be morally impure.
However, the history of the name Hansen's Disease is itself painful. Dr Gerhard Hansen hypothesized that leprosy was an infectious disease (even though his father-in-law seemed to show it was not and that it simply ran in families). He was able to identify the bacteria under a microscope. He then inoculated a woman's eye with material containing this bacteria using a small knife without her permission. (The infection did not take and she already had leprosy, actually).
The Norwegian government, appropriately, was not in favor of Hansen's experimentation without permission. Hansen went on trial for this experiment. He lost his position leading the leprosy hospital but remained the chief medical officer for leprosy in Norway.
Hansen's discovery was the first discovery of a bacteria causing human disease - back in 1873. Subsequent isolation of patients due to the knowledge that it was infectious lead to the elimination of the disease in the 1920s in Norway.
It should be noted that Hansen's father-in-law was partially right. Because leprosy is a disease that spreads through close proximity and prolonged exposure among those few with the genetic risk, leprosy does indeed spread among families, even though it is infectious.
Any more history?
Leprosy has been seen - and its quite visibly seen - in humans since the beginning of recorded history. The ancient Egyptians, scholars in India, and Alexander the Great's armies reported leprosy.
Historically, Leprosy was a problem for Europe in the Middle Ages, especially the 12th and 13th centuries, but then receded, without any treatment or apparent directed public health measures. At the same time, the disease remained in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Despite leprosy receding from Europe, it did remain in Norway, where it had the highest concentration in Europe, and where Hansen faced it.
Around the world, there were Leprosy sanatoriums - from Louisiana to Hawaii to Japan to India. Isolation of patients who were infectious - though only minimally - did help prevent the spread of the disease.
There wasn't treatment developed until the late 1940s - dapsone. However, strains resistant to dapsone quickly appeared. Later in the 1980s, multidrug treatment had a sizable affect on the disease spread. Cases dropped dramatically around the world. (https://www.verywell.com/leprosy-hansens-disease-p2-1958948, accessed 18May16)
4b Anyone who has touched a person made unclean by a dead body, or who has had a seminal emission, 5 or who has touched a reptile or insect that can make him unclean, or a man who is unclean for any reason and who can transmit to him his uncleanness – 6 the person who touches any of these will be unclean until evening and is not to eat the holy things unless he bathes his body in water.
• Although sin would make someone ritually unclean, some non-sinful things can also cause ritual uncleanness, therefore ritual uncleanness does not equal sin.
◦ In the same way, we need to be careful not to assume that just because someone is dealing with some physical or emotional issue that it always means they have some particular sin in their life.
▪ In a very general sense we can say that sin in involved because we live in a fallen world and the entire universe has been affected by sin, therefor every one of us is always affected by sin. Of course in that sense none of us will ever be clean in this life.
• To presume that someone is guilty of this or that sin simply because they have gotten sick or injured, or are dealing with depression or fear, is to adopt a baseless sense of self pride touching on megalomania.
◦ People dealing with physical or emotional infirmities need compassion, understanding, and healing, not condemnation.
▪ Condemnation comes from the devil (see e.g. Rev 12:10), not from Messiah (see e.g. Rom 8:1).
▪ Condemnation drives people away from Christ and the cross. Conviction, however is from the LORD and drives people to Christ and the cross where we can find forgiveness and healing.
• Yes, verses such as James 5:16 mention both illness and sin, but there are important words between them:
The prayer offered with trust will heal the one who is ill – the Lord will restore his health; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven (emphasis added).
• Notice that even in the case of ritual uncleanness, the LORD has made provision for cleansing.
◦ Because יהוה is my Shepherd I have everything I need.
• Cleansing involved mikvah
Its ordinary appearance belies its primary place in Jewish life and law. The mikvah offers the individual, the community and the nation of Israel the remarkable gift of purity and holiness. No other religious establishment, structure or rite can affect the Jew in this way and, indeed, on such an essential level.
The world’s natural bodies of water—its oceans, rivers, wells and spring-fed lakes—are mikvahs in their most primal form. They contain waters of Divine source, and thus, tradition teaches, the power to purify. Created even before the earth took shape, these bodies of water offer a quintessential route to consecration.
The mikvah as an institution is the victim of a popular misconception. Immersion in water is naturally associated with cleansing. But the mikvah never was a monthly substitute for a bath or shower. In fact, the Halachah stipulates that one must be scrupulously clean before immersing.
Most Jews see the synagogue as the central institution in Jewish life, But Jewish law states that constructing a mikvah takes precedence even over building a house of worship. Both a synagogue and a Torah scroll, Judaism’s most venerated treasure, may be sold to raise funds for the building of a mikvah. In fact, in the eyes of Jewish law, a group of Jewish families living together do not attain the status of a community if they do not have a communal mikvah.
This is so for a simple reason: private and even communal prayer can be held in virtually any location, and venues for the social functions of the synagogue can be found elsewhere. But Jewish married life, and therefore the birth of future generations in accordance with Halachah, is possible only where there is accessibility to a mikvah. It is no exaggeration to state that the mikvah is the touchstone of Jewish life and the portal to a Jewish future.
The function of mikvah is not to enhance physical hygiene. The concept of mikvah is rooted in the spiritual.
Immersion in the mikvah has offered a gateway to purity ever since the creation of man. The Midrash relates that after being banished from Eden, Adam sat in a river that flowed from the garden. This was an integral part of his teshuvah (repentance) process, of his attempt at return to his original perfection. In Temple times, the priests as well as each Jew who wished entry into the House of G-d had first to immerse in a mikvah.
[Right: Around the Temple Mount were numerous ritual baths, mikvaot [plural of mikvah], which were taken by people before entering the temple precincts. It was probably in the mikvaot that the disciples baptized three thousand people that accepted Christ after Peter's sermon (Acts 2:30-47). (Incert photo and text from GloBible Premium)]
[Once you know the mikvah ritual, John the Baptist doesn't seem so strange. He called people into a ritual of repentance, baptizing them in the Jordan River (Matt 3:6). Jesus instructed his followers to carry on that ritual (Matt 28:20). (Incert photo and text from GloBible Premium. Left: Artists conception of the Mikvah House at the Temple.)]
Jewish life is marked by the notion of Havdalah: separation and distinction. On Saturday night, as Shabbat departs and the new week begins, Jews are reminded of the borders that delineate every aspect of life. Over a cup of sanctified wine, the Jew blesses G-d who “separates between the holy and the mundane, between light and darkness, between Israel and the nations, between the seventh day and six days of labor .... ”
In fact, the literal definition of the Hebrew word kodesh—most often translated as “holy”—is that which is separated; segregated from the rest for a unique purpose, for consecration.
In many ways, mikvah is the threshold separating the unholy from the holy, but it is even more. Simply put, immersion in a mikvah signals a change in status—more correctly, an elevation in status. Its unparalleled function lies in its power of transformation, its ability to effect metamorphosis.
In the beginning, there was only water. A miraculous compound, it is the primary source and vivifying factor of all sustenance and, by extension, all life as we know it. But Judaism teaches it is more. For these very same attributes—water as source and sustaining energy—are mirrored in the spiritual. Water has the power to purify: to restore and replenish life to our essential, spiritual selves.
The mikvah personifies both the womb and the grave; the portals to life and afterlife. In both, the person is stripped of all power and prowess. In both, there is a mode of total reliance, complete abdication of control. Immersion in the mikvah can be understood as a symbolic act of self-abnegation, the conscious suspension of the self as an autonomous force. In so doing, the immersing Jew signals a desire to achieve oneness with the source of all life, to return to a primeval unity with G-d. Immersion indicates the abandonment of one form of existence to embrace one infinitely higher. In keeping with this theme, immersion in the mikvah is described not only in terms of purification, revitalization and rejuvenation, but also, and perhaps primarily, as rebirth.
[Understanding this helps us better understand Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus in John 3. Immersion in the mikvah is the last step in formal conversion to Judaism and personifies the womb and being born again, and the grave (the death of the old man / nature) and newness of life. Nicodemus was familiar with all these things and was already a Jew, so his questions to Yeshua were essentially, “How can a man become a Jew all over again. Can he go through all the rituals of Judaism and come into newness of life with God a second time?” Yeshua emphasized the spiritual aspects of true conversion coming from the Holy Spirit.]
Judaism teaches that the source of all taharah, “purity,” is life itself. Conversely, death is the harbinger of tumah, “impurity.” All types of ritual impurity, and the Torah describes many, are rooted in the absence of life or some measure—even a whisper—of death.
When stripped to its essence, a woman’s menses signals the death of potential life. Each month a woman’s body prepares for the possibility of conception. The uterine lining is built up—rich and replete, ready to serve as a cradle for life—in anticipation of a fertilized ovum. Menstruation is the shedding of the lining, the end of this possibility.
The presence of potential life within fills a woman’s body with holiness and purity. With the departure of this potential, impurity sets in, conferring upon the woman a state of impurity or, more specifically, niddut. Impurity is neither evil nor dangerous and it is not something tangible. Impurity is a spiritual state of being, the absence of purity, much as darkness is the absence of light. Only immersion in the mikvah, following the requisite preparation, has the power to change the status of the woman.
The concept of purity and impurity as mandated by the Torah and applied within Jewish life is unique; it has no parallel or equivalent in this postmodern age. Perhaps that is why it is difficult for the contemporary mind to relate to the notion and view it as relevant.
In ancient times, however, tumah and taharah were central and determining factors. The status of a Jew, whether he or she was ritually pure or impure, was at the very core of Jewish living; it dictated and regulated a person’s involvement in all areas of ritual. Most notably, tumah made entrance into the Holy Temple impossible and thus sacrificial offering inaccessible.
There were numerous types of impurities that affected Jews, regarding both their life and Temple service, and a commensurate number of purification processes. Mikvah immersion was the culmination of the purification rite in every case. Even for the ritually pure, ascending to a higher level of spiritual involvement or holiness necessitated immersion in a mikvah. As such, the institution of mikvah took center stage in Jewish life. (Excerpts from http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm, accessed 20May16.)
7 After sunset he will be clean; and afterwards he may eat the holy things; because they are his food.
• Cleansing, healing, mercy and hope come with the beginning of each new day in the LORD.
◦ But in my mind I keep returning to something, something that gives me hope – 22 that the grace of Adonai is not exhausted, that His compassion has not ended. 23 [On the contrary,] they are new every morning! How great Your faithfulness! 24 “Adonai is all I have,” I say; “therefore I will put my hope in Him.” 25 Adonai is good to those waiting for Him, to those who are seeking Him out. 26 It is good to wait patiently for the saving help of Adonai. (Lam 3:21-26)
• When the sun sets on the days of our earthly lives, if we are found to be in Messiah, we may eat the holy things at the marriage supper of the Lamb.
◦ “Let us rejoice and be glad! Let us give Him the glory! For the time has come for the wedding of the Lamb, and His Bride has prepared herself – 8 fine linen, bright and clean has been given her to wear.” (“Fine linen” means the righteous deeds of God's people.) 9 The angel said to me, “Write: 'How blessed are those who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb!'” Then he added, “These are God's very words.” (Rev 19:7-9)
After some rules for the priests are reiterated, in verse 23 they are enjoined
to teach My people the difference between holy and common and enable them to distinguish between clean and unclean. 24a They are to be judges in controversies, and they are to render decisions in keeping with my rulings. …
The priests were to teach
They had to have an idea of what they were teaching, and
They had to be living it out themselves, otherwise they would be teaching people how to be hypocritical
They were to teach the people the difference between holy and common, clean and unclean
In a world of “relativism” and “situational ethics” God still sees a difference between holy and common, between clean and unclean, because
He is holy and He does not change.
The LORD's priests were to be holy, because He is holy, and they were judge in controversies and render decisions in keeping with God's rulings – with His Word.
As followers of Yeshua we are called to be His priests (2 Pet 2:5, 9) and ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20), we too are to be holy and judge in controversies and render decisions in keeping with God's rulings – with His Word.
Years ago John 3:16 was one of the most often quoted Bible verses in the United States. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Now the most quoted verse is Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
Both have been ripped out of context, and as a pastor friend says, if you take the text out of context all you're left with is the con!
The first three rules in Bible study are: context, context, and CONTEXT!
Every word in a phrase;
every phrase in a sentence;
every sentence in a paragraph;
every paragraph in a chapter;
every chapter in a book;
every book in the Bible as a whole!
The word translated “judge” in Matthew 7:1 is κρίνω (“kree-no”). It can mean to distinguish or decide; and by implication, to try, condemn, or punish – which is not our prerogative in an eternal sense – the LORD alone makes those final judgements.
κρίνω, however, can also mean
to separate, to pick out, select, choose;
to approve, esteem
to be of [the] opinion, deem, think
to determine, resolve, decree [something]
Even if you look at the Hebrew Matthew from 1385 A.D., the word used for “judge” here is לָדוּן [la-dūn] which can also mean debate, discuss, talk over, deduce, rule, govern, punish, and litigate.
So, taken out of its layers of context, someone could argue, from Scripture, we are not to make choices, determine something, approve of anything, or even talk it over or think!
We do need to guard against judgmental attitudes that tear down others in order to build up ourselves. But the command “judge not” here does not refer to judging in a court of law, nor is it a blanket statement against critical thinking.
As believers in Yeshua we are called to be discerning and make certain judgments. For example, Yeshua said to expose false teachers (Matt 7:15-23) and to admonish others in order to help them (Matt 18:15). Sha'ul (Paul) taught that we should exercise congregational discipline (1 Cor 5:1-5).
But followers of Messiah should not be critical or condemning in our attitudes toward others. A judgmental, critical spirit differs radically from love. Believer's special position with Christ does not give us license to take God's place as Judge. If we judge in that manner we will find ourselves judged in the same way by God.
As God will have mercy on the merciful (Matt 5:7) and forgive those who forgive (Matt 6:14-15), He will also condemn those who condemn: For the way you judge others is how you will be judged – the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you (Matt 7:2). The way we treat others is the way God will treat us!
The sages taught that God judges the world by two “measures” – mercy and justice. Each person receives what he or she measures out, either with mercy or with severity.
“Judge not, that you be not judged” is one of the most-often misquoted text from the Bible. It is frequently used as if it were a flat command against all moral judgment. In fact, people use it to judge what they consider a judgmental attitude on the part of another. Yeshua, however, gave these words as one negative application of the “Golden Rule.” That is, we should not treat others as we do not want to be treated. We should seek to measure ourselves and others by the same standard.
Jesus declared as unacceptable excusing personal sin while holding others accountable for similar behavioral, and we can't judge ourselves by our intentions while we judge others by their actions. We need to first of all to check if the failure of another mirrors our own life? Any effort to help another will be in vain if that person can point out the same fault in us. We need to practice our own remedy before we ask others to do it – in other words: we need to “practice what we preach.” (See Life Application Study Bible Commentary, Matthew 7:1-2)