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About Ritual Cleanness

In this chapter we are going to talk about three different things: spiritual health, physical health, and ritual cleanness. These are three totally different things, but sometimes there are relationships between them. However, we have to be careful what conclusions we draw, because the relationships do not always hold true in reverse.

Before we begin, we need to understand that the Scriptures were written for people who lived in a culture of faith. The patriarchs and the Israelites of old may not have called it “predestination theory,” but they typically understood that Yahweh ultimately controls everything that goes on in the material world. They knew that Yahweh has the power to alter any aspect of the material world, and/or to bring about any miracle He wants. The theological implications of this are huge, but today, after the Enlightenment, most people do not accept anything as being true unless it can be “verified” by independent secular laboratory testing. If Yahweh does not choose to reveal Himself to secular scientists who operate outside of faith in Him, these secular scientists then tell the world that “Scripture is false,” and that there is no such thing as a Creator, or a Spirit. This then gets taught to our children in the secular government schools; and yet we know from experience that there really is a Creator, and that He really has the power to change or alter things in the material world at will. We also understand that He has the power to open and close the womb, to give and withhold health, and to smite with leprosy, or to cure it.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 12:9-12
9 So the anger of Yahweh was aroused against them, and He departed.
10 And when the cloud departed from above the tabernacle, suddenly Miriam became leprous, as white as snow. Then Aharon turned toward Miriam, and there she was, a leper.
11 So Aharon said to Moshe, “Oh, my adon! Please do not lay this sin on us, in which we have done foolishly and in which we have sinned.
12 Please do not let her be as one dead, whose flesh is half consumed when he comes out of his mother’s womb!”

We also know there can be a relationship between our spiritual health, and our physical health. For example, when we worry, we can get ulcers, tension headaches, migraines, heart disease, and even cancer. Although Yahweh created our bodies to be generally healthy, if we are not spiritually healthy, then our bodies can develop all sorts of physical disease. This shows that our spiritual health can impact our physical health.

Sins and transgressions can also impact our physical health. For example, if we choose to drink too much alcohol, or if we use drugs, or even if we eat unhealthy foods, it can impact not only our own health, but also that of our children. Now, because of science, we understand these things from the standpoint of cause-and-effect in the material world; yet there are also many places in Scripture where men chose to stray from Elohim’s ways, and they were struck with punishment as a result. For example, Nabal was struck dead for having refused support to David and his men.

Shemuel Aleph (1 Samuel) 25:37-38
37 So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone.
38 Then it happened, after about ten days, that Yahweh struck Nabal, and he died.

This is not just “Old Testament stuff.” In the Renewed Covenant, Yahweh struck Hananyah (Ananias) dead for lying to the Spirit (and later his wife Sapphira also).

Ma’asei (Acts) 5:1-6
1 But a certain man named Hananyah, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession.
2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet.
3 But Kepha said, “Hananyah, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Set-apart Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?
4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to Elohim.”
5 Then Hananyah, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. So great fear came upon all those who heard these things.

Today, after the Enlightenment, many people either deny that these things took place, or they look for other explanations. However, in our forefathers’ day it was understood that Yahweh has the power to smite people in the physical, whenever they displease Him.

There is also generational sin to consider. For example, when parents abuse their children (or divorce or abuse their spouses) it can affect the children emotionally and spiritually for generations to come.

Shemote (Exodus) 20:5b-6
5b “For I, Yahweh your Elohim, am a jealous Elohim, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me,
6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

The results of sin can even affect one’s descendants. For example, when Elisha’s attendant Gehazi ran to take payment from Naaman the Aramean (after Elisha his master specifically refused to receive anything from Naaman’s hand), Elisha said Naaman’s leprosy would cling to Gehazi and his descendants forever.

Melachim Bet (2 Kings) 5:26-27
26 Then he said to him, “Did not my heart go with you when the man turned back from his chariot to meet you? Is it time to receive money and to receive clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male and female servants?
27 Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and your descendants forever.” And he went out from his presence leprous, as white as snow.

However, not every physical disability is the result of sin or transgression. For example, in John 9:1-3 there was a man who was blind from birth, and yet Yeshua said that this was not caused by any kind of sin.

Yochanan (John) 9:1-3
1 Now as Yeshua passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
2 And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 Yeshua answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of Elohim should be revealed in him.”

In contrast, there are times when physical maladies seem to be caused by a spiritual disorder; and in these cases, if our faith improves then the malady will oftentimes go away on its own. For example, the woman with the issue of blood was healed because of her faith. It may be that her faith healed her spirit, and therefore her body began manifesting health.

Luqa (Luke) 8:43-48
43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.
45 And Yeshua said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Kepha and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'”
46 But Yeshua said, “Somebody touched Me, for I perceived power going out from Me.”
47 Now when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling; and falling down before Him, she declared to Him in the presence of all the people the reason she had touched Him and how she was healed immediately.
48 And He said to her, “Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. Go in peace.”

Not all physical woes are caused by spiritual disorders, but some of them are; and matters of faith can heal these disorders (whether Yahweh chooses to heal us via a miracle, or whether He just gives us slow, steady improvement).

Shemote (Exodus) 15:26
26 and said, “If you diligently heed the voice of Yahweh your Elohim and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians, for I am Yahweh who heals you.”

While modern medicine cannot explain it, there are many case histories of spontaneous remission of diseases, in which the patient credits “spiritual healing.” This shows us that there is relationship between our spiritual walk, and our physical health. When we come closer to Yahweh we can be healed of our diseases.

Now we need to talk about ritual purity and cleanness, as distinct from spiritual and physical health (and also as distinct from sin and transgression). As we will see, it is very possible to be spiritually and physically healthy, and yet be ritually unclean. In fact, as we will see, even Yeshua could be ritually unclean when He was outside the temple.

In Numbers 19, Yahweh gives us instructions for making waters for purification from the ashes of a red heifer. These waters are used for purification from sin.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 19:9-10
9 Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.

We have to be purified with these waters in order not to defile the sanctuary of Yahweh. It is important that we not do that, lest we be cut off from among the people.

Bemidbar (Numbers) 19:20-21
20 ‘But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of Yahweh. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean.

At the time of this writing (2011) there is no temple and no waters of purification from a red heifer, so no one can be ritually pure today. At one level this is not a big deal, since one reason for being ritually clean is so that we do not die when we enter His tabernacle or temple.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 15:31
31 “Thus you shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness when they defile My tabernacle that is among them.

Yet at another level, ritual purity and cleanness is a very big deal. Even though we cannot keep the whole of the Torah, many people believe we should still try to follow these rules as best we can, so that when the temple is rebuilt we will have a better idea what to do.

In Leviticus 11-14, Yahweh gives a set of instructions which deal with physical hygiene and ritual purification in a variety of circumstances. For example, Leviticus 11 tells us that it is a ritual defilement to touch the carcass of a clean animal (which we may normally eat) that has died on its own (i.e., it was found dead, or it was torn by beasts, etc,). If we touch it, then we have to wash our clothes, and we remain ritually unclean until the sun sets.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 11:39-40
39 “And if any animal which you may eat dies, he who touches its carcass shall be unclean until evening.
40 He who eats of its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. He also who carries its carcass shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening.”

Leviticus 12 gives the torah for purification of mothers who have given birth to children. It is often noted (with protest) that the time of purification for bearing a girl is twice that of the time of purification for bearing a boy. This might offend some people, but just as modern science has borne out Yahweh’s wisdom in calling certain foods “clean” and other foods “unclean,” it will probably happen that science will one day find reasons to support this as well (perhaps improved immunity).

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 12
12 Then Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean.
3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised.
4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled.
5 ‘But if she bears a female child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her customary impurity, and she shall continue in the blood of her purification sixty-six days.
6 ‘When the days of her purification are fulfilled, whether for a son or a daughter, she shall bring to the priest a lamb of the first year as a burnt offering, and a young pigeon or a turtledove as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
7 Then he shall offer it before Yahweh, and make atonement for her. And she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who has borne a male or a female.
8 ‘And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons — one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.'”

If a woman is unclean and in cleansing for a male child for basically a month, and basically two months for a female child, this means that the world is supposed to give her “maternity leave” for this amount of time. It is also likely that vital mother-son or mother-daughter bonds are formed during this time. While it is certainly fair for science to look for ways to understand why this is so important, science should never question the importance or the validity of Yahweh’s commands.

It is also frequently noted that the mother must bring a sin offering, whether the child is a male or a female. This may be where King David derived his famous saying that his mother conceived him in sin.

Tehillim (Psalms) 51:5
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.

Leviticus 13 and 14 give us instructions for purification for those with afflictions of the skin (such as leprosy). Then, in Leviticus 15 we get a set of instructions for whenever there is any kind of emission from the groin area, whether the discharge is from semen, menstrual blood, unusual menstrual bleeding (as we saw above in Luke 8 with the woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years), or venereal diseases.

First Yahweh begins with a discussion of venereal diseases in men. Notice that during the time a man has such a discharge, he is essentially quarantined, and everything he comes in contact with becomes unclean.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 15:1-15
1 And Yahweh spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying,
2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When any man has a discharge from his body, his discharge is unclean.
3 And this shall be his uncleanness in regard to his discharge — whether his body runs with his discharge, or his body is stopped up by his discharge, it is his uncleanness.
4 Every bed is unclean on which he who has the discharge lies, and everything on which he sits shall be unclean.
5 And whoever touches his bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
6 He who sits on anything on which he who has the discharge sat shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
7 And he who touches the body of him who has the discharge shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.

Verse 7 (above) shows us that even medical personnel who come into contact with someone who has such a venereal disease is rendered ritually unclean. It is not sinful for the doctors and nurses to become ritually unclean: it is just that they must wash their clothes and bathe in water before they can become ritually clean again (that evening). The same pertains to anyone who gets the unclean man’s saliva on them, or one who touches anything that the unclean man sits or lies on.

8 If he who has the discharge spits on him who is clean, then he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
9 Any saddle on which he who has the discharge rides shall be unclean.
10 Whoever touches anything that was under him shall be unclean until evening. He who carries any of those things shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
11 And whomever the one who has the discharge touches, and has not rinsed his hands in water, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.

Next we see that (porous) earthenware vessels have to be broken, while wood vessels (which are not quite as porous) have to be rinsed in water.

12 The vessel of earth that he who has the discharge touches shall be broken, and every vessel of wood shall be rinsed in water.

Because the transmission of venereal disease normally involves sin (even if indirectly, through one’s spouse), once he is cleansed, he must bring a sin offering.

13 ‘And when he who has a discharge is cleansed of his discharge, then he shall count for himself seven days for his cleansing, wash his clothes, and bathe his body in running water; then he shall be clean.
14 On the eighth day he shall take for himself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and come before Yahweh, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and give them to the priest.
15 Then the priest shall offer them, the one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering. So the priest shall make atonement for him before Yahweh because of his discharge.

Next Yahweh talks about discharges of semen. Verse 18 tells us that even if the emission takes place with his lawful wife, it still renders both the man and the woman ritually unclean until the evening after they bathe.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 15:16-18
16 ‘If any man has an emission of semen, then he shall wash all his body in water, and be unclean until evening.
17 And any garment and any leather on which there is semen, it shall be washed with water, and be unclean until evening.
18 Also, when a woman lies with a man, and there is an emission of semen, they shall bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.

Yahweh does not explicitly tell us to refrain from being intimate on the Sabbath and festival high days, but there are many clues that we should refrain from it. For one thing, the Sabbath and festivals are what are known as “appointed times.” These are times set aside for us to be with Him. It makes sense that He would want us to be ritually clean (rather than ritually unclean) during those times.

Further, the Torah was likely given to Israel at Mount Sinai on the first Pentecost. Yahweh made it very clear that the men of Israel were to be ritually clean at that time. They were not to approach their wives.

Exodus 19:14-15
14 So Moshe went down from the mountain to the people and set the people apart, and they washed their clothes.
15 And he said to the people, “Be ready by the third day: Do not come near your wives.”
(14) וַיֵּרֶד מֹשֶׁה מִן הָהָר אֶל הָעָם | וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת הָעָם וַיְכַבְּסוּ שִׂמְלֹתָם: 
(15) וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל הָעָם הֱיוּ נְכֹנִים לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים | אַל תִּגְּשׁוּ אֶל אִשָּׁה

In Hebrew, “by the third day” is לִשְׁלֹשֶׁת יָמִים. Scholars differ as to whether the people were not supposed to come near their wives for three days, or whether they were not supposed to come near their wives any more after three days; but either way it is clear that they were supposed to abstain from marital relations during the time they were to meet with Yahweh.

Next Yahweh discusses two kinds of discharges from women. The first kind of discharge is her normal monthly flow of blood, which is not sinful. It merely causes ritual uncleanness, which means she would not be allowed into the temple during this time. Historically, Israelites lived in extended family units that all helped each other. A woman who was cleansing was to be given lots of space, and anyone who wanted to go into the temple had to avoid touching her or anything that she sat or lied on.

Vayiqra (Leviticus) 15:19-33
19 ‘If a woman has a discharge, and the discharge from her body is blood, she shall be set apart seven days; and whoever touches her shall be unclean until evening.
20 Everything that she lies on during her impurity shall be unclean; also everything that she sits on shall be unclean.
21 Whoever touches her bed shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
22 And whoever touches anything that she sat on shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
23 If anything is on her bed or on anything on which she sits, when he touches it, he shall be unclean until evening.

If any man slept in the same bed with her, so that her menstrual blood got on him, he was to be unclean seven days; and it was as if he was also menstruating.

24 And if any man lies with her at all, so that her impurity is on him, he shall be unclean seven days; and every bed on which he lies shall be unclean.

Brother Judah traditionally observes this command by having separate beds for men and women. Many of our forefathers also had an extra bed for the husband (or the wife) during this time. Nowadays, some believe that with modern sanitary napkins and such it is okay for men and women to sleep in the same bed, provided they are not intimate during that time. Others believe that Yahweh’s purpose was partly to bring about separation between the husband and wife for a short time, which, as we will see later, has many medical and marital benefits.

We should point out that we know verse 24 is referring to the man getting menstrual blood on him (only), and is not referring to marital relations, because the penalty for having marital relations during the woman’s time of monthly cleansing was to be cut off from among the people.

Leviticus 20:18
18 A man who lies with a menstruous woman and uncovers her nakedness, he has laid bare her flow, and she has exposed the flow of her blood; thus both of them shall be cut off from among their people.
(18) וְאִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁכַּב אֶת אִשָּׁה דָּוָה וְגִלָּה אֶת עֶרְוָתָהּ אֶת מְקֹרָהּ הֶעֱרָה וְהִיא גִּלְּתָה אֶת מְקוֹר דָּמֶיהָ | וְנִכְרְתוּ שְׁנֵיהֶם מִקֶּרֶב עַמָּם

Next Yahweh tells us that if a woman has a flow of blood that is irregular, either outside of her normal time of impurity, or if it runs on (much) longer than her usual time of impurity, that the uncleanness is to be treated the same as in her normal time of impurity. However, when she is healed, she is to bring a sin offering to the temple.

25 ‘If a woman has a discharge of blood for many days, other than at the time of her customary impurity, or if it runs beyond her usual time of impurity, all the days of her unclean discharge shall be as the days of her customary impurity. She shall be unclean.
26 Every bed on which she lies all the days of her discharge shall be to her as the bed of her impurity; and whatever she sits on shall be unclean, as the uncleanness of her impurity.
27 Whoever touches those things shall be unclean; he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and be unclean until evening.
28 ‘But if she is cleansed of her discharge, then she shall count for herself seven days, and after that she shall be clean.
29 And on the eighth day she shall take for herself two turtledoves or two young pigeons, and bring them to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting.
30 Then the priest shall offer the one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for her before Yahweh for the discharge of her uncleanness.
31 ‘Thus you shall separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness, lest they die in their uncleanness when they defile My tabernacle that is among them.
32 This is the torah for one who has a discharge, and for him who emits semen and is unclean thereby,
33 and for her who is indisposed because of her customary impurity, and for one who has a discharge, either man or woman, and for him who lies with her who is unclean.'”

Women do not normally menstruate during the time they are pregnant, and many even stop menstruating during the time they are lactating. Because there was either little or no birth control practiced in ancient Israel, married women were not likely ritually unclean for long periods of time. However, teenage daughters can be unclean on a regular basis, and given the demands of raising a family in a limited space, it is oftentimes not realistic that a man can avoid becoming ritually unclean in a family environment, even with separate beds. Further, any intimate relations a man has with his wife makes both of them ritually unclean, and therefore unable to go inside of the temple without “washing and waiting.” This may be why King David established shifts for the priests, so that they lived apart from their families during their time of service.

While we should try to stay ritually clean, if we become ritually unclean outside the temple it is not that big of a deal. Yeshua lived in and amongst the people, and they touched Him on all sides. He was probably ritually unclean on a daily basis (outside of the temple).

Luqa (Luke) 8:45
45 And Yeshua said, “Who touched Me?” When all denied it, Kepha and those with him said, “Master, the multitudes throng and press You, and You say, ‘Who touched Me?'”

However, we know from The Torah Calendar that even though Yeshua might not have been able to remain ritually pure during the week, He did try to keep Himself set apart after His resurrection, so He could ascend to heaven and serve as the firstfruits of the wave sheaf.

Yochanan (John) 20:17
17 Yeshua said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My Elohim and your Elohim.'”

Over the years, our Jewish brethren have figured out ways to make it easier to stay ritually clean from day to day without causing unnecessary embarrassment. For starters, our Jewish brothers and sisters have a rule that unmarried men and women do not touch. They also forego the Western style handshakes with other men. If they want to acknowledge each other they simply say, “Hello.” When they buy something in a store, the money is put down on the counter, or into a special dish. The money is then counted (twice), and any change is put back into the same dish. Because there is no physical contact, there is no transfer of ritual uncleanness. (It is also more hygienic.)

Although it may confound modern secular psychology, numerous scientific studies have shown that married couples who keep the laws of ritual purity experience markedly higher rates of marital success than those who do not. Observant Jewish women also experience a markedly lower incidence of cervical cancer, as recorded in the Israeli Medical Association Journal, Volume 5, pages 120-123, 2/2003. Other studies have shown similar health benefits for women.

Yahweh blesses those who keep His instructions with regard to ritual purity with more successful marriages. But what are the mechanics of it? It could be that when married couples separate and then come back together, they get to experience a new honeymoon of sorts each month. The short time apart brings forth a longing for their spouse, and then the physical coming together also brings them together emotionally as well. Such are just a few of the many hidden blessings of keeping Yahweh’s Torah.

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