We are going to touch on and talk about the holy and the common, the clean and the unclean. This is contained in the concept called Kedusha (Holy, set apart). Ezek 44.23 says, “Moreover, they (the priests) shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” The definition of kedusha is “Set apart, designated for the service of God by formal and legal restrictions and limitations. The kedusha of periods of time are marked by limits on man’s activities of work.” The Mishnah tractate “Taharot” deals with this concept. It is a lengthy subject, but virtually unknown outside of Orthodox Judaism. We have a more in-depth teaching on this subject on this website called “The Concept of Holiness.” We shouldn’t try to interpret spiritual meanings to it. In The Mishnah, Kelim 1.6-9, we have different levels of kedusha listed. For instance, the land of Israel has the highest kedusha of all other lands because the korbanot (offerings) can only come from there, like the Omer and the Sheva Minim (Deut 8). The cities in Israel surrounded by a wall from the time of Joshua have a higher kedusha than those that do not. A leper had to be sent out of a walled city (Lev 13.46). Even the dead must be brought out. For example, to get out of the city of Jerusalem during the siege by the Romans, Yochanon Ben Zakkai faked his death in order to be “buried” outside the city. This was allowed to happen, and several scholars carried his coffin, and when he was safely outside the walls, he confronted Vespasian. The Roman general was so impressed with him that he asked Yochanon what he wanted. Yochanon requested a city called Yavneh, where the scholars began to restructure Judaism according to how the Pharisee’s believed. Jerusalem had a higher kedusha than any other city in Israel. Inside the walls of Jerusalem had a higher kedusha than outside the walls. The 500 x 500 cubit (amot) Temple Mount had a higher kedusha than the city of Jerusalem. The Chel, the common area around the Temple courts had a higher kedusha than the Temple Mount. The Court of the Women had a higher kedusha than the Chel. The Court of Israel had a higher kedusha than the Court of the Women. The Azarah had a higher kedusha than the Court of Israel. The Heichal (Holy Place) had a higher kedusha than the Azarah. The Kodesh Ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies) obviously had a higher kedusha than every place else.
This idea of kedusha is also seen in other areas, like people; the nation of Israel; the tribes; the families and the priests for instance. The laws of Tahor (ritually clean) and Tamai (ritually unclean) relate to this. These laws are found in Lev 11 through 17 and also in Num 19. There are three main areas, but there are more. These areas are: Tzara’at (Leprosy); fluids from a human body and corpse uncleanliness. All of these will have ceremonies in the Temple connected with them. You can be unclean till sundown or for seven days or longer, depending on what is happening. These laws of Tahor and Tamai are to be understood in a ritual sense only. This has nothing to do with a “physical” cleanness or uncleanness. Articles in the Jewish Encyclopedia, the Hertz Siddur and the Hertz Pentateuch have much to say on this subject. Ritual purity and impurity is to be understood and applied only when there was a Temple, a functioning priesthood and items with a certain kedusha on them. If he was unclean, he could not enter the Temple, interact with the priesthood or touch “holy items.” These laws do not apply today because there is no Temple. These laws on clean and unclean were not for health reasons. The Scriptures have much to say about this, but a basic understanding of this subject will clarify many verses. The New Testament has many references regarding the halakah (way to walk) concerning this concept at the time, but “why?” Because there was a Temple, a functioning priesthood and holy things. Here are some examples: Mark 5.21-34, 5.35-43, 7.1-23; Luke 10.30-37. 17.11-19; Matt 8.8 (one of the 18 Edicts); John 9.1-7.
Being unclean does not mean sin. You could become “tamai” and restricted from the Temple for being a meztora (leper); a woman who gave birth; having sexual relations with your spouse; ministering to the dead; menstruation; chronic discharges and touching the dead. Man is the only being that can become unclean. There can be no Temple in the future without the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer). The highest form of ritual impurity is corpse uncleanness. There can be no Temple, priesthood or holy things without the ashes of the Red Heifer. That is a very important eschatological issues.
Common Torah knowledge says that there is no “letter of the law” requirement to abstain from becoming tamai, except if you were going into the Temple for the festivals, to offer korbanot or for prayer because you were going to have contact with priests and the holy things. The rituals that return a person to a state of tahor, or ritual purity, all have a time factor. A tevilah (immersion in a mikvah) may be required, and the sun must go down. This is called a “Tevul Yom.” Seven days may be required for greater degree’s of ritual impurity, such as childbirth, tzara’at (leprosy) or corpse uncleanness. Sometimes a korban (offering) may be required.
Vessels (kelim) can be made ritually pure (tahor). If they cannot be returned to a sate of ritual purity, they must be destroyed. Stoves and ovens must be ritually pure. Cisterns and pools cannot be made ritually impure. On Yom Kippur, the core rituals involve purity and cleansing, not only for the High Priest, but for the Temple itself (very eschatological). Keys words for Yom Kippur is “cleansing” and “sprinkling.” There are many references to the purity laws in Scripture and that is why a basic knowledge and understanding of them is necessary.
In Num 19, we have the ceremony of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer), which is a major purification ceremony. The word “adumah” has the same root as “Adam” and Adam means “blood of God” or “first blood.” There will be overlapping themes involving the hyssop (Passover), the cedar wood (red in color) and the scarlet (Tolat Shanni). These will be related to the cleansing of the metzora (leper-Lev 14.16). The Parah Adumah is not a korban. The ashes of the Parah Adumah were kept in a chamber outside the Court of the Women on the right side of the Eastern Gate; on the Mount of Olives where the heifer was slain; and divided up among the Levitical cities. The exact spot where the heifer was slain has been found on the Mount of Olives, directly across from the Dome of the Rock where we know the Temple sanctuary stood. Old ashes are not needed to get the next Temple ready. It is believed that there will be a Red Heifer available when the time comes. The idea that the heifer had to be perfect simply means that it could not have any broken bones, cuts or scars. Lately, some red heifer’s have been disqualified because it had some “off color” hairs, but to many this was a Rabbinical requirement and not biblical.
In Num 19.2, the word “unblemished” is “tamimah” (# 8549 in the Strong’s) and it simply means “perfect or complete, no defect.” The word for “defect” is “mum” (# 4140 in Strong’s) and means “no defect or blemish and is translated as “injured” and “injures” one time each. So, we could have a red heifer qualified biblically as long as it had no limbs missing, broken bones, scars or any deformity. It also could not have carried a yoke. It is doubtful that Rabbinical Jews involved in putting up the Temple will follow only the Torah (they never have), but they will also be guided by the “oral Torah” laws and restrictions associated with the red heifer, but they don’t have to.
In Part 20, we will pick up here and look at some of the keys to understanding the Gospels.