The Hebrew words “tahor” and “tamai” refer to ritual purity and impurity. A person or object that contracts Tamai” is said to be “ritually impure” which means they are unsuited for certain holy activities, like entering the Temple and having contact with holy objects. In order to become “tahor” or “ritually pure, one must undergo a purification process defined in the Torah. Once that is accomplished, they can enter the Temple and have contact with the holy objects and the priesthood. The book of Haggai is a prophetic book, and it is from this book that we have the date that the Jewish people will have control of the Temple Mount prior to the Natzal, or rapture. It is Elul 24, six days before Rosh ha Shannah and the catching away of the believers (Hag 1.15). Now, let’s look at Hag 2.11-13 and see how some of the purifications laws apply for example. In v 12, it asks if a man carries “holy” meat will it make other things holy if it comes in contact with the meat. The answer is “no” but what is “holy” meat is what we are going for here? Holy meat is sacrificed in the Temple and can be eaten anywhere within the walls of Jerusalem. Most holy meat can only be eaten within the Temple (Lev 10.17-18, 21.22). Here is a question. Is the Passover lamb considered “holy” meat or “most” holy? It is considered “holy” because it can be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem. That’s why the people ate the Passover lamb inside the city, but it could not be eaten anywhere outside of the city. Because this is misunderstood by many believers and they do not understand the dietary laws, they think that they can keep Passover today, but Passover is the lamb, and there is no lamb. You can’t go to a store and buy a lamb and eat it for Passover because you have no idea if that lamb is male or female, or how old it is. But, the main reason is there is no Temple, and you can’t eat the Passover lamb outside of the city of Jerusalem anyway. In v 13 we have another question. If one is unclean (ritually impure, “tamai”) from a corpse and touches the things in v 12, will it make them unclean? The answer is “yes.” Contact with a corpse makes a person ritually unclean. However, the terms “clean and unclean” have nothing to do with “physical” uncleanness. It is clean or unclean in a ritual sense. Is being “unclean” sin or does it mean “being in sin?” No. Does being “clean” mean “without sin?” No. Being unclean does not mean that sin is involved.
Even the most pious person (a priest, for example) is going to become unclean very often. It is a part of life. In fact, to keep some of the commandments (mitzvoth) means you must become unclean. For instance, the priest who is involved with the Red Heifer (Num 19.1-8). Having sexual intercourse makes you unclean (Lev 15.18). Being involved in a burial makes one unclean (Lev 21.1; Num 19.11). Yeshua became unclean on many occasions. Did he go through the purification process (a mikvah, immersion bath) to enter the Temple? Yes. Paul had to go through the prescribed rituals after becoming unclean in Acts 21.26. These laws are Temple related subjects. With the destruction of the Temple, these laws are not in operation (no Temple). In the Jewish community, some of the purification laws are still very important. It is more important to have a mikvah than a synagogue. In Acts 16.13, Paul is looking for a synagogue and goes to the river, supposing there would be a synagogue there. Without a means of purification, one could not perform certain mitzvoth.
Remember, you cannot understand “grace” until you understand the Torah. Likewise, you cannot understand the Torah until you understand grace. They go together, they are partners (John 1.17). They compliment one another, they are not contrary. Purity did not only concern the priests, but in principle, it concerned the entire people of Israel. Some of the purification laws deal with contact or consumption of certain unclean animals, or eating the fat or blood of permitted animals. If one purposely became unclean so that he could avoid performing a commandment, or in rebellion against God, than that would be sin. Your attitude is key. Let’s look at some dietary restrictions.
The word “kosher” means “genuine and legitimate” and it conforms to the biblical injunctions. The “kosher “laws are called “Kashrut.” Lev 7.19-27 gives us food prohibitions concerning carrion, fat and blood. Lev 11.1-47 gives us the permitted and non-permitted foods. Gen 32.32 contains a law called “Hullin” which is the law of the sinew of the hip. There are no prohibitions concerning vegetables.
There are other purity laws that concern the body. These include discharges from the genital area; menstruation; miscarriages; seminal emissions; childbirth (Lev 12.1-8); corpse impurity (Lev 21.1-3, Num 19); leprosy (Lev 13.1-46, 14.2-32); leprosy on clothes (Lev 14.47-59); leprosy on houses (Lev 14.34-53). We will also see in the Mishnah where each of these are discussed. For all of these conditions, there are periods of separation, which is another aspect of the laws of purity. Here is a question. What is the law of separation which is not a part of the purity laws? It is the law concerning the Nazir, or “nazarite (Num 6.1-21).” If you took a Nazarite vow, it could be for life (like Samson, Yochanon ha Matvil, or John the Baptist) or it could be temporary, like Paul did in Acts 18.18 and Acts 21.15-26. The Scriptures assume you will contract ritual impurity. If God spent this much time to give us the purity laws, he has something to show us. Much can be learned about eschatology, the festivals and health, just to name a few areas we will deal with.
One living outside of the land of Israel was considered impure. Anytime Paul returned into the land of Israel from Asia Minor, he was considered impure. He may have stepped on a grave (dead are buried) and how could you know for sure in a foreign land (Ezra 6.19-20). When coming into the land, you would go through a purification process if you were going into the Temple. The word “ger” means “stranger.” The word “goy” means “pagan” but it has been mistranslated as “Gentile” in the various translations. This isn’t quite right. Gentile simply means a “non-Jew” and that is how we refer to them. The “Ger T’Shav” is a “stranger in the land” because he lived there, like Cornelius in Acts 10. The “Ger ha Sha’ar” is a “stranger at the gate” and lived outside of the land (Exo 20.10). They were joined to Israel anywhere in the world and were learning the Torah and believed in the God of Israel by emunah, faith. Where you lived determined what commandments to follow and what applied to you. It is the same with the Jewish people. What applied to them was determined by whether they lived in the land or not. A “Ger Tzaddik” is a “righteous stranger” and one who has become a Jew through the conversion process, which consisted of a sacrifice in the Temple, circumcision and an immersion in a mikvah. They were considered fully Jewish. Caleb was a Ger Tzaddik and so was Uriah the Hittite. This is a very important concept to keep in mind as you read the Scriptures.
Ritual impurity can be incurred when fulfilling certain commandments, like sexual relations, childbirth and burial. The remedy is not forgiveness but purification. What is another “law of separation?” Fasting, which is dealt with in the tractate “Ta’anit” in the Mishnah. When isn’t fasting acceptable? When it could affect your health. Secondly, if the motivation is to lose weight, than it is not acceptable before the Lord. There is no ulterior motive if you do it as to the Lord (Isa 58.1-12). A biblical fast is a separation from yourself and what your motives are, to the Lord, to draw closer to him. That is the purpose for any “separation” (Ezra 8.21-24). Yeshua gave a warning about fasting in order to be seen of men (Matt 6.16). When you fast, you lose body fat and blood is linked to the korbanot (sacrifices) and the fat and blood belong to God (Lev 3.16). Acts 15.29 talks about not eating blood, and the meat of carrion (things strangled). Lev 11.1-3 says “these are the creatures you may eat” and this is referred to by Paul in 1 Tim 4.1-41 Tim 4.4 says clean foods are to be received because God created them and they have been “set apart” for you by the “Word of God” in Lev 11.1-3, 9. The unclean are not permitted to eat (Lev 11.4-8, 10-12). In Part 3, we will pick up here and begin with the five different levels to the commandments and continue discussing the laws of purification and how they apply to a believer today, with no Temple, holy objects or priesthood. All of these concepts put together correctly will greatly increase your knowledge of the Scriptures, but they will help you interpret correctly many verses, not only in the Tanach, but in the Gospels and Epistles as well. This understanding can also help you understand biblical eschatology.