Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Physical and Spiritual Cleanliness: of mice and men
Physical cleanliness is certainly taught in part of G-d’s Torah. However, it is not the ultimate point or end-all for the teachings in scripture. Rather, spiritual cleanliness is the object and concept we need to learn and integrate beyond the physical. (It should be pointed out that Torah portions Tazria and Metzora, chapters 12 through 15 of Leviticus, are completely dedicated to teaching the laws of leprosy and spiritual impurity and uncleanliness.) In addition, next week’s portion of Bahaloscha, chapter 12 specifically verse 10, “Miriam was afflicted with leprosy like snow” as punishment for her lashon hara (evil speech about another against others without their knowledge), against Moses, along with several other instances throughout the written Torah. Many times physical impurity results in spiritual impurity, so it is extremely important to keep physically clean for spiritual and physical reasons. Spiritual cleanliness may seem like a separate entity from the physical, but we now know what G-d has taught us all along; everything is connected in some way and we cannot compartmentalize the universe, neither the One G-d that created it. However, we may appear kosher or clean and pure on the outside, yet filthy and contaminated on the inside. Much as a pig looks kosher from the outside, but does not chew the cud as is required for animals with split hooves in G-d’s Torah. We can use the dietary laws and medical knowledge as perfect illustrations of the importance of both physical and spiritual cleanliness.
G-d commands for example, that we are not to eat fish without fins AND scales, or shellfish. The Biblically ignorant tell us that there is no reason that we cannot eat those foods forbidden in the Old Testament because of the misunderstood and incorrect instructions of scriptures found in Acts Chapter 10. Those who actually take the time to read this scripture know that the audience is a Messianic community and specifically Peter, and that G-d was showing him that men are not unclean in and of themselves. This narrative does NOT abrogate G-d’s laws. How ridiculous to think that Yahshua (G-d incarnate) would abrogate His own laws for man!
It turns out that all of the forbidden sea food are either bottom feeders, predators, or animals that absorb toxins from the water. None of these fish or shellfish are healthy for human consumption. This is the physical application. The cliché “you are what you eat” certainly applies. More important is the spiritual application; G-d says “no.” Would we not expect for the maker of a product to know more about it than anyone else? Do we not seek information and knowledge on how to care for what we purchase from the manufacturer and not our neighbors? Why then, do we trust human knowledge, justification, rationalization, and minimization of G-d’s commands, laws, and rulings rather than looking for the information in the “Owner’s manual” (G-d’s Torah)? I submit to you it is because of one of three reasons. The first is laziness. It is easier to eat whatever we want than to see if it is harmful or permitted. The second is Scriptural naïveté. Some people really don’t know what they don’t know and have not yet been called out by G-d with a spiritual curiosity to find out why the Bible says one thing, yet the clergy is teaching something totally contradictory to G-d’s Torah. Finally, arrogance/rebellion is the third reason. This group of people don’t know the truth of G-d’s Torah and they don’t want to know lest they leave their life of perceived eternal security no matter how they live.
The parashah this week takes physical and spiritual cleanliness to another level. The Kohanim are now trained to discern between benign and malignant physical manifestations. The scriptures are very interesting in the descriptions of lesions on the skin that accurately describe many of the lesions we see in medical practice today. Back then, people were isolated depending on the appearance of the lesion. After a designated time, they would return to the Kohen for reexamination and further “treatment” with possible re-isolation or even banishment from the community. Today healthcare providers may take a “wait and see” approach, or treat the lesion with a medication and send the person away for a week or two before rechecking the lesion. In some cases, biopsies must be taken to determine the source of the lesion and the depth of involvement of the skin and other tissues. For the Kohanim, more time in isolation would often provide the definitive “diagnosis.” In some cases, the person became so contaminated, they were declared clean. This would seem to be a lost cause, but there was always room for repentance while there was life. These were the physical aspects of dealing with physical contamination. However, G-d’s Torah goes so much deeper than the “surface” lesion so-to-speak. The physical contamination often indicated a spiritual defect as in the case of Miryam who slandered her brother Moshe. Her lashon hara (evil tongue) was not tolerated by G-d and he publically humiliated her with tzara’at covering her like snow (Num. 12:10). She was given a heavenly “time out” for seven days to think about what she had done. Only after the seven days was she allowed back into the camp. This was certainly a warning sign for Miryam to watch her tongue from then on. This is also proof (if you need any) that G-d knows everything we think, say and do (Num. 12:2; Luke 8:7; Luke 12:2).
As is the case with all spirituality — pure, impure, righteous, evil, mitzvot and avayra (commandments, sins) their concepts are far above the understanding and identification of human beings and nature. Just as reward for our mitzvot and punishment for our sins remain mysterious and to many of us illogical, so too, spiritual cleanliness remains just that — spiritual, not visible as we perceive the world with physical sight and human logic. But as true believers who recognize that still small voice as coming from G-d, our souls (neshamahs) make an instant connection as if we were Spiderman shooting out a strand of silk to a point of contact. After all, being spiritually clean or unclean refers to our souls as physical cleanliness does to our bodies. Furthermore, G-d was the first to establish social public health policies for our bodies, and our souls. If we seek spiritual wisdom from above and not from man (James 3:17; Proverbs 4), G-d will grant it to those who love Him and keep His commandments (John chapter 14). Kohanim are to be free of all spiritual impurity. So you say we are not priests? I admonish you to carefully read 1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, G-d’s special possession that you may declare the praises of Him who called you.” We are a priesthood and as such, are held to a higher standard than those who have not been called at this time.
So for those who wonder if they are being deprived due to punishment, it is quite the opposite. As a kohen your souls are demanded to stay fully clean due to your high spiritual status in our faith. G-d want the whole man, and the man whole. So the old cliche “cleanliness is next to G-dliness,” is a valid statement, although not a direct quote from G-d’s Torah. This applies to the physical and spiritual aspects of our being. I encourage you to read Parashah Naso Chapters 5:1-10.
- Tamah Davis