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Are you unclean?

These two Parshas of Tazria (Lev 12:1-13:59) and Matzatot (Lev 14:1-15:33) are both dealing with the issues which are somewhat difficult for us to understand today. They speak of being "unclean" and "impure" and yet those words are connected to giving birth or a woman's monthly menstruation cycle. Over the many centuries these passages have been almost completely discarded by the Christian community and even the Jewish community struggled on how to apply the commands. In fact, in the Mishna (c200 CE), there are discussions which show the breadth of how they struggled to understand the meaning of this Mosaic law of purity and impurity. The challenge with understanding these ancient laws comes with our many generations of disconnecting to the Hebraic worldview of scripture.

To be ritually unclean was not the same as being in "sin". Unclean was a state of being during or after an event and was denoting a level of the presence of G-d had been changed. The example in these passages is that of giving birth. One may rightly ask, "why would childbirth result in an unclean status for the mother?"

Before I pose a possible answer we should note that the New Testament upholds these laws. In Luke 2:22-23 after the birth of Yeshua (Jesus) the Bible states:

"22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”(Exodus 13:2).

24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”(Lev 12:8).

Skip to verse 39:

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

So we see that in the birth of Messiah, Miriam and Yoseph obey the purification process. We read in our parsha that the child is to undergo Brit Milah (circumcision) on the eight day. Which Yeshua also undergoes. Thus, even at the beginning of his life on earth, Yeshua is in perfect obedience to the Torah.

The two parsha we are in this week are devoted to the Biblical idea of "tumah" which is translated as "impurity." A woman is considered blessed and holy in the eyes of G-d. She is given a great power, for only in her is the ability to bring forth another life.

When a woman goes through her monthly cycle she is said to have experienced a touch of death so to speak, with the loss of potential life that resided within her. Thus she enters a state of being impure for a short season. However, these events are not of her own control or own doing. In fact, Rabbi Yohanan said: "Three keys remain in the Holy Blessed One’s own hand, and have not been entrusted to any messenger, namely, the key of rain, the key of childbirth, and the key of the revival of the dead." In other words these activities are not entrusted to men or to the control of anyone but G-d himself.

The idea is that the presence of G-d is manifest in a shekinah glory filled atmosphere at different times. At the birth of a child that glory is immense. Therefore whenever there is a moment when the presence of G-d was great or intense and it leaves, in that place "tumah", impurity will rest for a period.

We even see an example of this when the Israelites leave Egypt. As they walk through the miracle of the parting of the sea, the glory of G-d is all about. However, once they enter the other side, the presence diminishes. As this happens they begin to complain. The "impurity" arises in a place where there was presence.

How can we apply this today? Imagine the moments in your life where you sensed the overwhelming presence of your creator. When those "mountain top" experiences end we are left with a feeling of loss. This is tumah. The scripture says that we must then go through a purity cleansing. Although we no longer have a "temple" to go to or a "high priest" to offer a sacrifice to, we as followers of Messiah Yeshua are blessed with the gift of him being our High Priest and us being His temple he resides in.

Today we can become "clean", in the ritual sense, by being "washed through water of His word." This condition is not a sin condition so we are not in need of forgiveness or grace as the event was not within our control. Rather we are in need of a revival of His presence or His glory.

The apostle Paul refers to the word of G-d as a cleansing baptism. A place that brings purity and holiness to us. The reading of G-d's word and the application of it to our hearts and lives brings us back into the presence of G-d when loss is felt.

Today take a moment to thank G-d for His word and spend a few minutes allowing the scriptures to flow over you like a warm cleansing shower.

Blessings and Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Jeff

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