Tahorot-The Laws of Purification-Part 8

We are going to take a brief look at the methods of purification. These will vary and matched the degree of impurity and categories. If one had a flux, or a chronic discharge, they had to have seven “clean” days and then an immersion. A leper had two live birds, one is slaughtered over an earthenware vessel. He then takes cedar, hyssop and scarlet wool and binds these together with the live bird. The tips of the wings of the alive bird are dipped in blood and sprinkled on the lepers hand, then sets the bird free. The leper is then shaved and he waits seven days before he can enter a walled city. He is shaved a second time, immerses himself and washes his clothes. If one is impure from a corpse. He is sprinkled with sin offering and the ashes of a Red Heifer in living water on the third and seventh day. He immerses after the seventh day and is unclean until evening.

The cleansing of hands is done with about a fourth of a liter of water over the hands. If more than the hands, he needs to go to a mikvah. Remember, those ritually impure need to immerse only in connection to the Temple. None may enter the Temple court for the Avodah (service) unless he goes through an immersion, even if he is clean (Jerusalem Talmud Yoma 40b; Mishnah Yoma 3.3; Acts 21.26). In a mikvah in the Temple, you walked through it. If you left the Temple and came back, you immersed again. According to halakah, you dipped one time, but the custom was to dip three times. Because the Passover lamb was a holy offering (eaten within the city walls od Jerusalem on ly) you immersed before Passover. The priests did before they ate of the holy things also. The purification is complete by evening. The priest who burns the Red Heifer and the High Priest on Yom Kippur is separated from his house seven days prior to prevent impurity and sprinkled with the ashes of the Red Heifer. One is purified before any festival and you could come as early as seven days prior (Yeshua did this). Many immersed before any Lord’s Supper (meal consecrated to God), in some cases, was daily.

What about purity and impurity at the present time. The cessation of many of these laws was a prolonged process, which is only in part, connected to the destruction of the Temple. The law of the leprous house was already not in practice at the time of Yeshua, before the Temple was destroyed. The impact of the laws concerning a leprous house was lightened and any doubt was ruled “clean”, so a deterioration was already in progress. When a leper entered a synagogue, a place was made for him. He entered first, then left last. This was after the Temple era. The laws of the leper were not enforced in Babylon in the Gaonic period (after the Talmud-600-1040 AD). There was no Temple to go to anyway. The lepers are not driven from a synagogue because the “they camp shall be holy” was not in force. Impurity from a flow of semen that prevented Torah study was disputed in the Mishnaic era. In Israel, the women stopped going to a mikvah after cohabitation in cold weather. Joshua Ben Levi said “Do you want to curtail that which has guarded Israel from transgression?” The custom was done, however, in Israel and not outside of the land by some, and this included Babylon where the largest Jewish population was. It was done to sanctify the name among the Gentiles. It became a custom is Spain, but not followed in Christian Europe. Jews among the uncircumcised are not accustomed to immerse. However, it was required in some place for the reader of the Torah and the priestly blessing to immerse. With no Temple, most of these laws no longer apply today.

The Hassidim in the 1700’s reissued the duty of immersion for one from whom semen issues. Purification from a corpse was possible as long as the ashes of the Red Heifer was available. These were distributed among the priestly courses (24 of them) and used up until 600 AD. When this ended, it is assumed all Jewish people have contracted corpse impurity. Priests are still forbidden to contract this impurity, even though they are impure anyway, since they cannot guard against contracting impurity from a metal utensil overshadowed by a corpse. This is the reason for the prohibition to enter the Temple area today.

What are the reasons for purity and impurity? The answer is never given in the Torah and there is not a whole lot of discussion in rabbinic literature about it. They didn’t have the answers either. They did not regard these as infectious diseases, or the laws of purification as hygienic principles because that would not have excluded Gentiles from various impurities. Sin causes the land and the people to be impure (like murder and arrogance). The sages assumed the existence of an impure spirit (heart, mind) and impure art as the source of witchcraft and magical practices. But, they did not associate the laws of purity with them. In Mark 7.14-23 we have the story where Yeshua tells the people that there is nothing from the outside of a man, and going in, can defile that man. Rabbi Yochanon Ben Zakkai said the same thing by saying “The corpse does not cause impurity, nor does the waters purify, but it is a decree of the King of Kings. Then why have these laws? It is teaching and instruction and a matter of the heart. As a result, nobody was not well-versed in this subject, even children. Purity was one of the levels on the way to the “spirit of holiness.” Repentance and good deeds (mitzvoth, commandments) are conducive to purity and holiness (set-apartness). The Torah purifies the mind (just like water) because one meditates and the Torah “washes” or “immerses” his mind and thoughts and hallows them. The bottom line of all this is even the rabbi’s who have studied these things all their lives have questions.

Let’s look at a few facts. The Scripture deals with purity and impurity in a large percentage. Terminology was the basis for what people spoke of in the first century. The Gospels and Epistles are full of terms related to these laws. If we learn what these terms mean, we will understand what they say. Today’s teachings operate with half a deck of cards because they don’t know what they are teaching or talking about. For example, the “rooster” at Yeshua’s trial was not a literal rooster, but a man called the Temple Crier. Roosters were not allowed in Jerusalem and part of the laws of purification. He is called the “gever” because he made his three fold cry early in the morning, like a rooster, so it was an idiom. But, not knowing the purity laws has made people believe that a literal rooster crowed when Peter denied Yeshua, but that is not the case. Another example can be found in Rom 14. This chapter is not talking about meat eaters and one who eats just vegetables. Yeshua and the talmidim only ate kosher food, but vegetables can be eaten with anything. From the dietary laws, all fruits and vegetables are permitted, but they can be made un kosher (unclean contact, not tithed off of, moldy, etc). One of the issues was meat sacrificed to idols and the Jews in the Roman synagogues would not eat common meat from a Gentile believer for fear of ritual impurity. The main issue of the chapter is that there were two groups in the synagogue, Jews and non-Jews. The “weak” are those who lack the knowledge that Yeshua is the Messiah (Rom 4.19-20, 10.2), not one who ate kosher or followed the Torah as many false teachers say today. The Gentiles came directly into the faith through faith in Yeshua. The Gentiles are being told to accept the Jews in the congregation.

We have learned that there are certain animals permitted for consumption, and others are not. Many herbivorous animals, both wild and domestic, are named in the Torah. Ten of them are named in Deut 14.4-6. Why ten? Ten is the number of judgment and a congregation, and it implies “more.” So, these ten animals named in Deut 14 represent the clean meat, and implies more. Animals with only one kosher characteristic (rabbit, pig, etc) are considered unfit for consumption. Why would the Lord have certain animals permitted and others not permitted? The answer is “teaching.” Look at and study the characteristics of the clean animals, then see how that applies to ma believer. Then look at the characteristics of the unclean animals, and apply that to unbelievers or areas in our own life. The clean animals talk about the Kingdom of God and the Messiah, the unclean talks about the Kingdom of Evil and the false Messiah, for instance.

Here is an aspect that understanding one aspect can teach us. The “blood” is talked about in Gen 9.4, Acts 15 and Acts 21. It is to be avoided. The first prohibition was blood and it has a specific purpose. Col 2.16-17 teaches us about the Messiah and the Lord. Understanding Passover is just one example of how a festival can teach eschatology and it is tied in with the blood (Ezek 16.1-13 is eschatological). What does the word “Adam” mean? It means “blood of God” or “first blood” and 1 Cor 15.45 says that we are saved by the “blood of God.” The blood is set apart, the essence of the redemption. This understanding comes from the dietary laws.

Wood for the Temple can be declared unfit because it may have worms in it, or the wood is decayed. This was part of the inspection in the Wood Chamber of the Temple. By the way, the Ark of the Covenant is supposed to be under the Wood Chamber. In Part 9, we are going to conclude by giving a general review of all these concepts in a concise manner. Hopefully, this will help you as you read the Scriptures and help you understand what is being communicated.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, Prophecy/Eschatology, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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