Ritual impurity prevents a person or object from coming into contact with the Mishkan/Temple and any items with a kedusha. Lev 11.1-8 teaches us about the clean (tahor) and unclean (tamai) four-legged creatures. Lev 11.9-12 tells us about the clean and unclean creatures in the water. Lev 11.13-19 tells us about birds that are prohibited and Lev 11.20-23 tells us about which winged insects that walk on all fours is “detestable” and which may be eaten. Lev 11.24-28 teaches us about defilement through contact. Leviticus 11.29-43 tells us about the creeping things on the earth and finally Lev 11.44-47 tells us about the spiritual purposes for these laws.
The question that sometimes is asked is, “What about a clean animal that dies?” Leviticus 11.39-40 tells us that whoever touches its carcass becomes unclean ritually until evening. If he eats some of the carcass, then he shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. The one who picks up its carcass shall wash his clothes and be ritually impure until evening.
Now, here is a concept. If hygienic uncleanliness is meant here, how could a person be “uncontaminated” simply by the setting of the sun? Here is another concept about an animal that “dies of itself.” That would ruin the type of the Messiah. He did not, nor could not, die of natural causes and be our Passover Korban Shelem. Deut 14.21 says, “You shall not eat anything that dies of itself. You may give it to an alien who is in your town that he may eat it, or may sell it to a foreigner, for you are a holy people (with a kedusha) to the Lord your God.”
Again, this has nothing to do with health. The alien or the foreigner was allowed to do this because they will not be entering the Mishkan/Temple or come in contact with holy things (with a kedusha). Remember, that is the reason for all these laws on ritual impurity. Quoting again from the Hertz Pentateuch and Haftorahs, p. 459, “Most laws of purity and impurity apply only in reference to the Sanctuary, and the holy objects connected with it. They did not apply in ordinary life, or to persons who did not intend to enter the Sanctuary.”
Lev 12.1 to 13.59 is another Torah portion called “Tazria” meaning “Conceived.” As a side note, the Torah portions are usually named after a word in the first verse of a portion. This made it easy to keep in mind where you were in the Torah because a Torah scroll did not have chapter and verse like our Bibles. This dates back to the time of the Babylonian Captivity and the portions followed an annual cycle. Some Jewish communities followed a triennial (three year) cycle where where only a third of a given portion was read in a given year. These portions are called a “Parsha” (divide) and are also known as a “Sidra” (order-see “Weekly Torah Portion” on Wikipedia).
This portion describes various states of ritual purity and impurity that can come on a person. Lev 12.1-8 begins to describe the Laws of Family Purity called “Tahor ha Mishpochah.” This portion begins with childbirth and a ceremony called the Law of Separation. The birth of a child is a joyous event, but in the human life cycle there are points of transition. Gaining something new denotes and end to something else.
For a mother this can be particularly dramatic. There is a well known psychological syndrome called “Postpartum Depression.” This may be seen as a pathological form of loss and separation. The Torah recognizes the reality and importance of separation and mourning, and seeks to sensitize the mother to it be commanding that she participate in this ceremony. She is given the status of “Niddah” (12.2,5). She cannot enter the Temple, no sexual relations and she cannot touch holy things until the days of her purification are completed.
In Lev 12.4 it says she is to remain in her “blood of purification” for thirty-three days if she gives birth to a male. Why thirty-three days? If the child was a female, she is to remain in the “blood of purification” sixty-six days. Why sixty-six days? This is a picture of the Messiah and it is eschatological. Yeshua was a male, and he died at thirty-three and was rejected and “cut off” (Dan 9.26). In 66 AD, Israel (seen as female) finally rejected the testimony of the Jewish believers in the Kahal (the eschatological congregation) and it was a “double uncleanliness.” The Jewish war with the Romans was begun resulting in the destruction of the land, the city and the Temple. The people were driven from the land. But, when the days of her purification are completed she must present a lamb as a Korban Olah and a pigeon as a Korban Chatat. Israel will reach the time of her purification and she must present Messiah as her Korban Olah and Korban Chatat. This will allow her to come into the presence of God and touch the things with a kedusha again (12.6-7).
The state of tamai (unclean) does not work according to the rules that we would assume applies. Animals have no “tamai” during their lifetime, but humans do. Believers have a greater level of tamai than unbelievers because to whom much is given, much is required. Tamai is brought on when a “vacuum” is caused by the absence of a previously existing kedusha. The greater the kedusha, the greater the tamai that fills the void. Man was made in the image of God and had a kedusha. It was lost when man sinned in the garden. Yeshua came to restore that kedusha and that is called the Redemption. That is when we will be in the image of God again. After childbirth, the physical status of kedusha is diminished. A “vacuum” is formed and she becomes tamai, unable to enter the Mishkan/Temple (12.4).
Lev 13.1-59 deals with the Laws of Zara’at (Leprosy). Again, clean and unclean here (tahor and tamai) is never used to designate physical clean or unclean. It is a ritual clean and unclean before the Lord and applies only if you plan on coming before him in his “house” (Mishkan/Temple). We learn in Lev 13 that one of the functions of the priesthood was to diagnose zara’at. There is no mention anywhere of going to a doctor if you came down with zara’at (leprosy) in these verses. So, there is something else going on. The word “infection” in 13.2 is the word “neguah” and it means “to touch, strike, a blow.” The question is, by who?
God has the ability to punish our social behavior. There is no escape from Yehovah, a lesson Jonah learned. This not only applies to prayer (we can pray anywhere and he hears us), but it also applies to what we do (he sees us anywhere). Zara’at was a public, physical manifestation for attitudes concerning what is called “Lashon Hara” or the “evil tongue.” This is when one gossips, ostracizes someone, spurns, insults another or slanders another.
This was not an infectious disease, but a physical manifestation of Divine judgment. If you notice in this chapter, the kohen (priest) was the one that made the determination of something was zara’at, not a physician. This was just one of the functions of a priest when he was not on his week-long and scheduled duty in the Mishkan/Temple. If this disease was contagious, why was it allowed to remove articles from your house before the kohen inspected it (14.36)? The quarantine of a person or object depended on the kohen’s ruling. If the kohen did not get a chance to see the infected person, the person could continue to be in contact with others. During a festival, even if there were indications of zara’at, the kohanim would not investigate the person till after the festival. A kohen will not declare a bridegroom “tamai” until after the wedding week. Zara’at needed “spiritual” confirmation from a kohen. When the zara’t covered the whole body, he is declared “clean” by the kohen (13.12-13). Only when Israel (and us) confesses and comes before the priest (Yeshua), admitting that they (and us) are completely guilty and “covered” in sin can we be pronounced clean by the priest (Yeshua). The lesson for us is this.
When we see a “blemish” we have no right to declare it so until we have a spiritual confirmation. This is a lesson in negativity. We can use a bad experience to grow. It may be troublesome, even a handicap, but it isn’t. The only true handicap is in the mind.
There is a term we need to know and the concept is seen throughout the Scriptures. The term is “Middah K’neged Middah” and it means “measure for measure.” This is when justice is served as the slanderer and the gossip are publicly exposed for the destructive force they have become by their tongue. In other words, since you wanted to make another person feel “like a metzora (leper)” God says “I will make your life like a metzora (leper) in judgment.” Just like the metzora (one with zara’at) was asked to leave the camp and was separated from others, their family, their jobs and their normal life, gossips and slanderers try to do the same thing. They try to separate other people from others, their family, their jobs and their normal life by lashon hara, an evil tongue.
With that said, we will pick up here in Part 14 and begin to discuss the concept of Lashon Hara, the evil tongue.