This Shabbat reading is a double-parashah. These four chapters deal with the uncleanliness of birth secretions and of the skin diseases we call leprosy.
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I have absolutely no idea why God makes a woman unclean after giving birth to a girl twice as long as when giving birth to a boy, and despite the many jokes I already have popping into my head, I will demonstrate restraint and wisdom and not post even one of them.
The age-old argument for why God gave us these instructions is that they are for hygienic reasons or they are strictly Levitical (religious). There can be, of course, valid arguments for both sides.
Obviously, if someone has leprosy you do not want them in the general population for the safety of all. On the other hand, leprosy was also used as a punishment for religious disobedience, as in Numbers 12, when God struck Miriam with leprosy for speaking against Moses; as such, it may represent being spiritually cut off from the people as well as physically.
I consider these regulations as the type of instructions we call Chukim, which are commandments and laws for which we cannot understand why God gave them to us. Yes, it is easy to understand separating a person with a contagious disease, but why is a woman unclean after giving birth to a girl twice as long as for a boy? We can understand she is unclean from the secretions caused by the birth but, then again, why is someone ceremonially unclean just because they had a secretion?
I have stated often when we come across a commandment from God, one for which we have no idea why he gave it to us, that obedience doesn’t require understanding, only faith and trust. I have stated this more often than not, I think when we are going through the book of Leviticus because, well, this is where a lot of chukim appear.
But that is not what I feel is something we should review now. No, I think the message for today is simply that when we come across a commandment that deals with hygiene, it can also represent both a physical and spiritual condition. For example, witches are almost always portrayed as ugly because their spiritual essence is so evil that it affects their physical appearance, as well. Conversely, spiritually pure people are displayed as beautiful.
So what about Samantha Stevens? In the TV show “Bewitched”, she was a witch and she was absolutely gorgeous! Oh, wait a minute- she was a “good” witch, wasn’t she? (If there can be such a thing.) Of course, for decades TV and movies have been portraying evil as good in order to get us conditioned to thinking that evil is not just acceptable, but desirable. After all, Satan is called the Prince of the Air, and how is TV transmitted?
But, we’re getting off topic, so let’s get back to today’s parashot.
The lesson I believe these parashot can give us today is that one’s physical condition doesn’t necessarily indicate their spiritual condition. Many people with horrendous physical ailments or handicaps can be pure as new-fallen snow, spiritually, and there are beautiful people who are more like what Yeshua accused the Pharisees of being: white-washed sepulchers full of dead people’s bones.
So here it is, pure and simple: do not judge from the outside but try to see people as God does, from the inside. It is hard to overcome the social conditioning we all – everyone in the world- have undergone, which is that beauty is better than ugliness, but when we look at people’s fruit instead of their bodies, we will be able to judge properly what their spiritual condition is, despite their physical appearance.
And one last thing: please try to avoid discussions about why God said we must or must not do something. They may be interesting from a scholarly view, but when it comes down to what is important, knowing why God wants you to do something is not going to save you, but doing what God wants you to do is certainly not going to hurt you.
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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!