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These chapters deal with the purification procedures for a person after childbirth, when Tzara’at (leprosy, or some infectious skin disease) breaks out and if one suffers any type of bodily secretion.
It should be noted that they refer mainly to uncleanliness (either physical or spiritual) with regard to the Sanctuary and the holy things associated with the Sanctuary. The restrictions regarding the Sanctuary do not apply for all cases in everyday life. The observance of these regulations have been somewhat lost over the centuries, starting with the destruction of the Second Temple, and now are rarely observed except by the Orthodox. For example, Orthodox Jewish men will not shake hands with a strange woman or even give her change of a dollar. It is not because they are misogynistic or disrespectful but simply because they are obeying the laws in this parashah. A woman in her time of Nidah (menstrual cycle) is unclean, and if a man touches her or anything she has touched he also becomes unclean which would prevent him from being able to enter his synagogue that day.
As with all of God’s commandments that are not simple to understand (i.e., do not kill or do not lie) people try to make up the reasons for God giving us these mitzvot (laws.) The reasons generally fall into one of two categories: hygienic or levitical (religious.) They may also be referred to as either moral or ceremonial laws, and for many Christians the ceremonial laws are the ones that they are taught are only for Jews because Christ did away with when he died on the cross. Those who know better understand that “anti-Torah” teaching is wrong because Yeshua never taught against the Torah; in fact, he taught only from the Torah and never even implied that we should do anything other than what the Torah says. But…that topic is for another time.
I am going to be somewhat repetitive today because the important message I believe we get from these two parashot is one I have recently talked about. In fact, I talk about it often, and what it is is this: it doesn’t matter why God tells us to do something! What does matter is that he told us what we should do.
If there are good reasons we can understand for the regulations, such as separating someone with an infectious disease from the community, all the better. But it doesn’t matter why God tells us something- he is God, we are not. He is the Father, we are the children. He is in charge, and we must obey if we are to receive blessings.
That’s all there is to it. Now, if someone feels that they have a right to understand, go ahead and ask God to explain his reasons to you. He is “big” enough to be questioned, but realize something first: you had better ask politely, act respectfully, and not expect an answer. God doesn’t have to justify himself to anyone. God is merciful and compassionate and you might get an answer, but whether or not you receive and answer you are still expected to act as commanded.
Yeshua tells us we are either a slave to God or a slave to the world (Matthew 6:24) and, as such, we must choose whom we will serve. God tells us throughout the Torah that when we obey him we will be blessed. One of my favorite biblical chapters is Deuteronomy 28, which is the Blessings and Curses chapter. I have often written and talked about how God never does anything cruel to us; the world is already a cursed and fallen place, and because we live in it we are constantly barraged by cruelty and hatefulness. God’s blessings are protection from the world. When we act in obedience to the Torah we are protected. It is when we reject Torah that we find ourselves exposed to the world and cursed. God actively loves and protects his children who obey him, and passively allows us to go our own way when we reject him. That’s when we find ourselves in trouble.
So, nu? What is the word for today? It’s this:
- obey God because he is God;
- obey God because we trust God tells us to do only what is in our best interest to do; and
- obey God because he is telling us how to live forever with him in peace and joy.
To paraphrase a line from a famous poem: “Ours not to reason why, ours but to do OR die.”
If these reasons aren’t enough for you, then you will have a hard life and may sacrifice your very salvation. We are not saved by obedience, we are saved by faith; and that faith is demonstrated not by what we say but by what we do.