Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #28 M’tzora (Person afflicted with tzara’at) Vayikra (Lev. 14:1-15:33)
Haftarah: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings) 7:3-20
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 9:20-26; Mark 5:24-34
This week we will closely examine the purification ritual and the connection to Yahshua in a way that may be new to many believers. This is important because this week the parashah addressed the process for someone who is afflicted with tzara’at. We begin in Lev. 14: 5 that describes this process: “ then the cohen will order that two living clean birds be taken for the one too be purified, along with cedar-wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop leaves. The cohen is to order one of the birds slaughtered in a clay pot over running water. As for the live bird, he is to take it with the cedar-wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop and dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird slaughtered over running water, and sprinkle the person to be purified from the tzara’at seven times…
Let’s fast forward to the narrative of Yahshua’s crucifixion. First, we know that Yahshua is also called the “living water” (John 4:10, 14; 7:37-39; Rev. 21:6). John 7:37 reads “If anyone is thirsty, let him keep coming to me and drinking! Whoever puts his trust in me, as the Scripture says, rivers of living water will flow from his innermost being!” This verse is especially relevant in explaining the relationship between the purification ritual in our parashah and the purification power of Yahshua’s sacrifice described in the B’rit Chadashah (“New” Testament). Cross referencing to John 19: 34 we read “However, one of the soldiers stabbed his side with a spear and at once blood and water flowed out.” Examining John 19:29 we notice that Yahshua was offered sour wine although thought to be vinegar with hyssop leaves wrapped around it (Sterns translates as oregano). In fact, hyssop is a wild-mountain grown form of oregano so both translations are correct. For the purpose of this teaching we can compare the hyssop used in the purification of one contaminated with tzara’at to that used in Yahshua’s crucifixion. Hyssop also has purification properties (Psalm 51:9), and Yahshua partook of it.
Blood and fresh water spoken of in our parashah can be directly related to the blood and water that poured from Yahshua’s side. Both were known to have strong purification power and I submit this is why the blood and water spoken of in the crucifixion narrative is written in specific detail. It could have simply said that when his side was pierced, blood came out. But it does not read this way. Another reason is that the components of blood are not typically classified as water. Blood is a specialized fluid in our bodies that have four main components, each with a different function: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Although plasma is 95% water, it also serves as the protein reserve of the human body. It plays a vital role in an intravascular osmotic effect that keeps electrolytes in balanced form and protects the body from infection and other blood disorders. In the context of purification, this is the component that protects us from contamination and infection; physical tzara’at! This is the physical protection besides the fact that our life is in the blood. This has physical and spiritual application as does every biblical concept. Fresh water as spoken of in our parashah is represented by the water that immediately flowed from Yahshua’s side.
Next we examine the red yarn. We know this represents Yahshua’s sacrifice and redeeming power. Recall the story of Rahab in Joshua 2:18 “Behold, when we come into the land, you shall set this line of scarlet thread in the window from which you let us down. And you shall bring your father and your mother, and your brothers, and all your father’s household, home to you. Joshua 2:19 “And it shall be, whoever shall go out of the doors of your house, his blood shall be on his head, and we will be blameless. And whoever shall be with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is on him.”
Rahab the harlot is an example of the grace of G-d at work and the redemptive power of Yahshua to separate the smallest “kernel” from a “contaminated field”. Rahab lived in a doomed city, practiced a condemned profession, engaged in subversive activities, and falsified [lied about] her actions. Nevertheless, she…acted upon a faith that she knew may have cost her her life. Her faith was rewarded, and she was spared the judgment of G-d which was executed at the hands of the Israelites. In addition to her deliverance, Rahab was rewarded beyond measure when she married into the household of Nahshon…By Salmon, Rahab became the mother of Boaz and ancestress of David in the Messianic line of the ancestors of Yahshua. As one of four women listed in the genealogy of Matthew 1, Rahab is in the company of Tamar, who was also a harlot, and Ruth, who was a virtuous Gentile”
Hebrews 11:31 speaks of her in the context of being considered righteous by her faith manifested into ACTIONS based on her belief. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, after receiving the spies with peace. She didn’t just passively sit in her room and wait. She took risk; she received the Israelite spies with peace and protected them until they could escape.
“The scarlet thread of Rahab is a symbol of her faith that G-d will provide deliverance in the time of judgment. Throughout the Bible ‘scarlet’ speaks of an expression of faith made on the behalf of the believer, and it is seen in the vestments of the tabernacle and in the priestly garments in Exodus” (Joshua 2:18-21). Rahab was saved from destruction because she had acted on her new-found faith enough to hang a red rope out of her window.
This blood-red rope provides an illustration or symbol of the blood-red scarlet thread that runs throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. The Scofield note on Joshua 2:21 says, “The scarlet line of Rahab speaks, by its color, of safety through faith (Hebrews 9:19, 22).” That red rope pictures the scarlet thread that runs from one end of the Bible to the other. This is the concept of the read yarn spoken of in our parashah. In the context of G-d’s Torah, the red tarn is woven throughout. The red thread/yarn truly holds the future of spiritual Israel. For we are contaminated by our very nature as humans and must reach toward Yahshua in repentance and take hold of the red thread; become reconciled to G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice. This red yarn/thread is our Lifeline to ultimate salvation. Don’t let go!
Finally, we address the cedar-wood used in the purification process. According to Haggadah (In general, the Haggadot are presented as folklore, historical anecdotes, moral exhortations, and advice), the contaminated person exalted himself like the cedar which is the tallest of trees. But when he abases himself like the lowliest of plants (hyssop), he is healed. The wood of the cedar, specially grown under the conditions of its natural habitat, is hard, close grained, and takes a high polish. It is full of resin (Ps. 92:14) which preserves it from rot and from worms. Cedar oil, a kind of turpentine extracted from the wood, was used in ancient times as a preservative for parchments and garments. Perhaps the ability of the tree to resist rot and worms is one reason it was used in the purification process. If we apply this concept to the future of the righteous cleansed of tzara’at, we may better understand Psalms 92:14-16 “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in the L’vanon. Planted in the house of Adonai, they will flourish in the courts of our G0d. Even in old age they will be vigorous, still full of sap, still bearing fruit, proclaiming that Adonai is upright, my Rock, in whom there is no wrong.” This is the ultimate desired outcome of a race well-run; the purification process we go through while on this physical earth. Our “resin” is G-d’s Torah that we “produce” through Torah study, prayer, obedience, and overcoming the tests we are given to strengthen our “bark.” Cedar wood is highly desired for its wonderful scent, resilience, and color. Similarly, we want to be and must become and remain separate, acceptable to G-d, glorifying Him in all we do and are so that we may be planted in the house of Adonai and flourish in the courtyards of G-d.
Through the sacrifice of the one bird and the covering of the living bird in the blood of the one that was slaughtered over running water, the other bird was set free after being dipped in the blood along with the hyssop, red yarn, and cedar-wood. Notice that the blood of the slaughtered bird fell into the running water and the living bird had to be dipped in the blood with the other objects of purification before being set free. Anyone who chooses to become a true believer must go through the same process in order to become a freeman and a slave to Yahshua. While total submission to Yahshua may not sound like something one might desire when coming out of a religion that teaches freedom form all of G-d’s commands and that people simply need to profess the Name and be “nice” to achieve instantaneous and eternal salvation. On the contrary, being a slave to Yahshua encompasses and entirely different connotation than a slave situation as we may first think it to mean. It is up to each individual to knock, seek, and ask continually, to learn what YHVH/Yahshua expects of us and what awaits those who are found to be faithful servants for His glory; not self- aggrandizement.
Each of the objects; hyssop, red yarn, and cedar wood have physical healing properties with spiritual application. However, all the objects including the bird had to be dipped in the blood for the purification process to be valid. SO it is with individual human repentance and reconciliation to Yahshua. Finally, the individual had to shave his head and beard, wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water. He was allowed to enter the camp, but he had to live outside his tent for seven days. On the seventh day he went through a third and final ritual of shaving all the hair off his head, his beard and eyebrows; wash his clothes, and bathe his body in water, then he was considered clean. But there is more to achieve the ultimate in purification. The sequence of events and the involvement illustrate the severity and complexity of becoming contaminated with tzara’at. The entire purification process is beyond the scope of one teaching and I will stop here. However, it is important for us to know that the entire process has physical and spiritual application that is no less important today than it was at the time it was mandated by G-d. I encourage everyone to continue to study this parashah beyond the teaching. Through thoughtful prayer and diligence, the Ruach will guide you to a new level of understanding scripture and applying new knowledge to your lives.
Haftarah: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings) 7:3-20
This week’s haftarah discusses the story of four men stricken by tzara’at, a skin ailment caused by sins; relating back to our parashah.
Haftarah’s backdrop: King Ben-Hadad of Aram besieged Samaria (the Northern Kingdom of Israel). The resulting famine was catastrophic, reducing many to cannibalism. King Jehoram of Israel wanted to execute the prophet Elisha, considering that his prayers could have prevented the entire tragedy. Elisha reassured the king: “So has G-d said, ‘At this time tomorrow, a seah of fine flour will sell for [merely] a shekel, and two seahs of barley will sell for a shekel in the gate of Samaria.'” One of the king’s officers present scoffed at the prophecy: “Behold, if G-d makes windows in the sky, will this thing come about?” Elisha responded, “Behold, you will see with your own eyes, but you shall not eat there from.”
Now, four men suffering from tzara’at dwelled in quarantine outside the city. They too were hungry, victims of the famine. They decided to approach the enemy camp to beg for food. They arrived only to find a deserted camp. For “G-d had caused the Aramean camp to hear the sound of chariots and the sound of horses, the sound of a great army. And they said to one another, ‘Behold, the king of Israel has hired against us the kings of the Hittites and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us.'” The entire enemy army fled, leaving behind their tents, horses, donkeys and provisions.
The four men went to the city and reported their findings to the gatekeepers who, in turn, informed King Jehoram. Though originally thinking that this was an ambush planned by the enemy, the king sent messengers who confirmed the miracle. The people swarmed out of the city and looted the enemy camp, thus breaking the famine and fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy.
And the officer? The king placed him in charge of the city gates. He was trampled to death by the rampaging crowds — after seeing the fulfillment of the prophet’s words…
B’rit Chadashah: Mattityahu (Matthew) 9:20-26
The readings from the B’rit Chadashah this week address a section we did not cover in this teaching; that is on the subject of niddah, or a woman’s state of ritual uncleanliness due to her menses (Lev. 15:9-30). G-d clearly lays the rules for a woman in her period of niddah and for those who have an issue of bleeding beyond their normal menses or during other times. In these circumstances, the woman is also considered unclean as is anything with which she comes in contact, including touching another human. This is where the prohibition against women hugging and touching male rabbis originated. The one who was touched also became unclean until evening. We understand that her uncleanliness is not simply from passing blood; it is due to the fact that during this time she is passing a dead egg that was a potential life.
In our narrative we have a woman who is unclean because of her abnormal bleeding. As an Israelite, this woman knows the rules. She knows she could be in big trouble for touching Yahshua’s tzitzit in her unclean condition (Lev. 15:31). Yet, she takes a chance; she acts on her faith that she can be healed if she can only touch the tzitzit on his robe. She approaches from behind and takes the chance. Yahshua did not kill her. He turned and gave her words of comfort and encouragement. He knew her heart. Her action was not a high-handed defiance of G-d’s laws concerning uncleanliness. Yahshua immediately knew she touched his tzitzit even though she approached from behind. He said “Courage, daughter! Your trust has healed you!” (Matt. 9:22). She was instantly healed.
Mark 5:24-34 gives a more detailed account describing the energy exchange between the woman and Yahshua simultaneously as she touched his robe. In this narrative, the woman fell down in front of Yahshua trembling and frightened as she told Him the truth about her being the one to touch him. I submit according to the other narratives that He immediately knew who touched him. In Mark’s narrative Yahshua tells her “your trust has healed you. Go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”
Honest confession, humble submission, heart-felt repentance and a change of behavior is what this parashah is all about. May we all consider he cost of sin in every aspect and the One who made it possible for us to become clean and acceptable vessels so that we may offer our utmost for His highest glory.
Rabbi Tamah Davis