Hebrew Roots/Torah observance/Mitzor

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Metsora Leviticus 14-15

The law of the leper— (Torat haMetzora)

Yahweh has already given the laws for determining if a person is a tzarua (leper). Now the Torah is turning to the issue of cleansing a tzarua who has been healed already. This is not about healing the disease, as 14: 3 makes clear, but about purifying the ritual uncleanness so the ‘tzarua’ person can return to the camp. Ritual uncleanness in the camp would defile God’s holy presence in the land, as God says in Leviticus 15:31, “Thus you shall keep the sons of Israel separated from their uncleanness, so that they will not die in their uncleanness by their defiling My tabernacle that is among them.”

The offering of two living clean birds— The ceremony is so specific it seems to carry some symbolic meaning. Yet the symbolism can only be surmised, since the meaning is not stated. The two birds, one living and one dead, suggest someone in a state of death (dead bird) returning to life (live bird that is released). Since the leper lived in a perpetual state of mourning and was treated as though a corpse, the cleansing of a tzarua is a picture of resurrection from death.

Cedar wood, scarlet, and hyssop—The rabbis admit to being puzzled by these symbols. Some, who see leprosy as punishment for pride (and gossip) take the cedar to be a symbol of pride, since it is tall and strong. The scarlet represents humility, they say, since the dye for scarlet is made from a worm. Others see the cedar’s resistance to rot as the reason for its use, symbolizing the freeing of the leper from rot. Another possibility is that cedar, which is a red colored wood, and scarlet are both chosen as symbols of blood purification or life (since blood is life). The hyssop was used at Passover to paint blood on the door. These three elements together were burned along with the ashes of a red heifer to make water of purification (Numbers 19).

Exclusion of the Leprous Person

If part of a person’s skin turns white, he is brought to a kohen for examination. Under certain circumstances, the kohen will order the person to be temporarily confined (musgar), to see if the signs of tzara’at develop into a definite plague (muchlot). After the period of confinement, the person, after further examination by the kohen, may be declared muchlat, or, alternatively, tahor (ritually clean). Under other circumstances, the kohen will declare the person muchlat immediately.

Once the person is declared muchlat by the kohen, he must isolate himself from the community: And the Tzarua [not translated as “leper,” since they are not actually the same], upon whom the plague is found, his clothes shall be torn; his head shall be unkempt [i.e., he may not cut his hair]; and over his upper lip shall he be veiled; and “Tamei! Tamei!” shall he cry. All the days that the plague is upon him shall he be tamei; he is tamei. He shall dwell in isolation; outside the camp shall be his dwelling (Vayikra 13:45-46).

The Tzarua, with his uncut hair and face covered, his clothing in tatters, and warning everyone not to come in contact with him, lives in complete isolation. He resided outside the camp in the desert; later, he lived outside any walled city in the land of Israel. Even other people who are rendered tamei must live isolated, in an all- tz’ru’im area. His life is a kind of living death, as he himself mourns his condition.

In view of all this, the following laws are especially surprising: But if the tzara’at then breaks out further in the skin, and the tzara’at covers all the skin, [susceptible to] the plague, from his head to his feet, to all that is shown to the eyes of the kohen; then, the kohen shall look and behold tzara’at has covered all his flesh, and he shall pronounce the plague tahor… But, on the day that there appears healthy flesh in him, he shall become tamei. And the kohen shall view the healthy flesh and pronounce him tamei : the healthy flesh is tamei, it is tzara’at (Vayikra 13:12-15).

The case here, is when the person was first declared tamei, and then the tzara’at spreads throughout his body. When a person who has been declared tamei has an outbreak of tzara’at over his whole body (as seen by the kohen), then he is declared tahor! If, on the other hand, he was previously tahor, then an outbreak of full-body tzara’at renders him tamei!

The issues regarding the unclean (tamei) and clean (tahor) and their relationship to leprosy is once again considered, especially in regard to the age-old challenges presented by the Evil Tongue which in Hebrew is labeled, Lashon Hara.

For centuries the Sages of Judaism have faithfully taught that these portions on a physical level, which address how you handle issues of childbirth purification, leprosy on skin, garments and the house and their purification procedures and the instructions regarding fluidic emissions from the body and how to purify all that has touched the issue.

However, the important thing to remember is that although these procedures are recorded in great detail, what the Hebrew scholars and sons of Israel have concluded is that the Holy One is more concerned with the spiritual condition that these physical manifestations simply reflect. Because while addressing the nuances of being physically tamei or unclean, the long-term consequences of spiritual impurity to the Body of the Messiah is far more detrimental to the health of ALL Israel.

One of the challenges that faces all of humanity is the reality of our fallen nature. Whether a person believes the fact that he or she is a recipient of the curses that were placed upon Adam and Eve in the garden (Bereisheet/Genesis 3:16-19), the empirical evidence speaks for itself.

Mankind is burdened with various degrees of understanding inherited from tasting the knowledge of the tree of good and evil. So with that as a basic premise, the problems that are generated affect all cultures. The sons of Israel were not exempted, but instead were called out to be “a light unto the nations” (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 42:6; 49:6; 60:3) in order to reveal to the other nations a better plan that is ultimately embodied in the gift of Torah. For His Divine purposes, the Holy One of Israel chose one man, Abraham, and through his descendants He has promised to bless all who choose to be blessed.

“And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Bereisheet/Genesis 12:3).

So through Abraham’s promised seed and what is eventually recorded in the Holy Scriptures, we have a divine chronicle of what the Creator has determined He wants to convey to His creatures that will ultimately give them life eternal. The problem is mankind has to constantly battle with the proclivity to follow the ways of our flesh instead of turning to the Tree of Life, Yeshua the Messiah, for the empowerment we need to walk in the ways of Torah.

Speak No Evil

With all of that being said, one of the most prevalent calamities that infect the human soul is the inherent need to build oneself up or to feel better about oneself, when in the deep recesses of the mind, mankind attempts to justify, or at the least, cover up its sin nature. One of the most frequent ways to enhance your personal image is to put other people down. By doing so, this allows the person to compare how much better he is than the person that he disparages. The Scriptures are replete with admonitions against this very damaging human tendency. Just this one portion from the Book of Proverbs states how vile the Holy One considers improper use of the tongue.

“There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: [1] haughty eyes, [2] a lying tongue, and [3] hands that shed innocent blood, [4] a heart that devises wicked plans, [5] feet that run rapidly to evil, [6] a false witness who utters lies, [7] and one who spreads strife among brothers” (Mishle/Proverbs 6:16-19).

Here the author describes three things that fall in the category of Lashon Hara, and if you include part of the “heart that devises wicked plans,” you could conclude that nearly half of the things that the Holy One of Israel HATES are a result of what comes forth from the mouth. For when you compliment this Proverb with some of the instructions that Yeshua teaches His listeners, you will be able to concede that what does usher forth from the mouth is indeed a reflection of an evil and wicked heart.

“But the things that proceed out of a man come from the heart; and those make the man common. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and slander” (Mattityahu/Matthew 15:18-19).

Now as you read this instruction from the Messiah, did you notice His use of the words “false witness” and “slander”? These are two of the most vicious forms of killing that go way beyond a simple murder of an individual. In fact, when you compare the difference between a one-time murder and the chronic character assassination perpetrated by a false witness against a person by slander, you might conclude that to be murdered once is preferred to the seemingly perpetual consequences of lies.

The classic example of this is the ancient Hebrew word picture that compares slander to a goose down feather pillow that has been cut open and cast to the wind. Imagine if you will, some fallacious statements that are being made about you and how those very words have a tendency to float in all directions landing at different times. Due to the nature of man described earlier, with mankind’s proclivity to want to feel better about them than what the reality truly is, when the gossip or rumor or slander of false witness is heard, there is a natural inclination to want to share the “juicy news” with others. This innate problem in humanity has the effect of not only spreading the bad word, but it goes in every direction and lands at almost any unexpected time.

So the problem with lashon hara or the evil tongue is considered by the Rabbis to even be more damaging to a person than murder. At least with murder, the event occurs only one time and it is over. On the other hand, the result of slander and false witness can go on without end and continue to damage a person for not only his lifetime, but even beyond his life.

Bodily Discharges Lev. 15

Seminal emissions that come forth from the man cause him to be unclean before God and with the woman her menstrual cycle causes her to be unclean. Since she did not become pregnant, an egg, which was a potential child, is released without having been made into a human life. This has also, to a certain degree, got to do with death, and therefore produces ritual uncleanness in the woman. It is during this time of uncleanness that God commands husband and wife not to have sexual relations. The Orthodox take this command very seriously, to the extent, they will sleep in separate rooms during this time. This makes it so when they once again are able to come together it is like being newly married. This time apart also allows the woman’s body to heal itself and prepare for the next cycle of being able to conceive children.

The state of being tameh, ritually unclean, is produced when man has any type of contact with death. The human body is the main source of ritual uncleanness. Sexual intercourse has to do with death since millions of sperms die without producing human life.

In verse 31 of our passage from Leviticus we are told be become nazir. Nazir means to separate or consecrate oneself to God and in order to do that we must separate ourselves from becoming unclean. What is instructed here in the natural needs to be also established in the spiritual, we discover is it is impossible to do so without God’s help and this is where the enabling of the Spirit of Yahweh is necessary to give us the necessary grace to overcome.

Unclean and Clean

Now you can perhaps see why the Holy One included in the Torah these passages that deal with the condition of unclean versus being clean. Then when you really analyze these statements about skin conditions and different conditions because of natural bodily fluid excretions, you can begin to conclude that the point Moses in these passages is trying to get across to the children of Israel is that for a considerable amount of time during the normal course of our lives, men and women are simply in a state of “uncleanness.” And when you really analyze these two Torah portions, you can readily conclude that man’s unclean tendency is something we cannot do a whole lot about. This is why we need to be covered by the atoning blood of the Messiah.

There is one prophetic picture that the Prophet Ezekiel shares with us that does a reasonably good job of describing some of the inherent problems associated with being unclean. In chapter 36, that ultimately leads us into a critical chapter that describes some of the latter day events of the restoration, Ezekiel graphically tells of the condition that the House of Israel has to deal with while living in their own land.

“Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds; their way before Me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity. Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols. Also I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them. When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, ‘These are the people of Yahweh; yet they have come out of His land.’ But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore say to the house of Israel, “Thus says the Lord Yahweh, ‘It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am Yahweh,’ declares the Lord Yahweh, ‘when I prove Myself holy among you in their sight. For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God. Moreover, I will save you from all your uncleanness’ Ezekiel 36:17-29a).

In this passage, Ezekiel compares the House of Israel to a woman in her state of niddah or being unclean. Because Israel did not walk in the ways or perform the deeds that were expected of the sons of Israel by the Holy One, Israel was scattered to the nations. Then to add insult to injury, the children of Israel profaned the name of Yahweh in the nations to which they were banished. Then Ezekiel points out that Yahweh Himself, for His own name’s sake, will return the sons of Israel to the land and then will sprinkle Israel with clean water and cleanse Israel from all of his filthiness and idol worship.

Becoming Sanctified

When we think of washing and water and the Word, the image of the Messiah washing His called out ones with the living cleansing water of the Word comes to mind as described by the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians. “That He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of the water with the spoken word” (Ephesians 5:26). This especially comes to mind because as Ezekiel continues, he talks about the new heart of flesh and washing Israel with clean water, in order for Israel to actually be able to walk in His statutes and observe His ordinances.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances” (Yechezkel/Ezekiel 36:25-27).

In Psalm 51:7, it is written, “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."(HNV)

Without a doubt, it was the cleansing from tzaraat that was in the background of David’s prayer in this Psalm. After sinning with Uriah’s wife, he prays to be cleansed with hyssop in order to be rid of the “leprosy” of sin and death. When it mentions being whiter than snow, it means coming up cleaner than the one who is completely covered with tzaraat, so that he is all white, as it is written in Leviticus 13:13, “then the priest shall examine him; and, behold, if the leprosy has covered all his flesh, he shall pronounce him clean of the plague. It has all turned white: he is clean."(HNV revised)

The Apostle Paul understood the absolute need for a new nature or to become a new creation in order to have that heart of flesh that follows the Spirit of the Most High.

“Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; but even if we have known Messiah according to the flesh, yet now we no longer know Him so. Therefore if anyone is in Messiah, he is a renewed creature; the old has passed away, the renewed has come” (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).

The Apostle Peter also spoke of the “divine nature” and its attributes. “Through which He has granted to us His precious and greatest promises, so that through them you might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. And for this same reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply excellence, and in excellence, knowledge; and in knowledge, self control; and in self-control, patient endurance; and in patient endurance, piety; and in piety, brotherly love; and in brotherly love, love. For if these are yours and are super-abounding, they keep you neither idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah. For he who lacks these is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his cleansing from his former sins” (2 Kefa/Peter 1:4-9).

Both of these men in their writings were trying to encourage the post-Resurrection Saints to embrace their new natures. And of course when you read about these new natures, you will find that they have been delivered from the lusts of the flesh that include all of the human tendencies we spoke of earlier to want to use their tongues to put other people down so that they can elevate themselves. Those hearts of the people who are still walking around in Adam’s fallen nature with hearts of stone, that are not being cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word. They might be reading the Word, but things are not changing in their stony hearts. Instead, they continue to evidence the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). These are the people who usher forth from their very mouths all of the things that Yeshua said would evidence that they are defiled or common. This is not a matter of what they eat, but rather their innate condition of their heart.

“‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE INJUNCTIONS OF MEN.’ And after He called the crowd to Him, He said to them, ‘Hear, and understand. Not what enters into the mouth makes the man common, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this makes the man common” (Matthew 15:8-11).

Therefore, the only solution to all of these maladies, whether they be spots on your skin, or lips that speak slander and give false witness against your fellowmen, or the natural flow of body fluids, is the faithful decision to confess and repent of your individual sins and transgressions and cry out to the Heavenly Father for mercy.

Then in His mercy to you, as a result of the blood atonement provided by the work at Calvary, you can now be a new creature, washed by the blood (Revelation 7:14). Then with your new heart of flesh, you will be compelled by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit to continue washing yourself by the water of the Word as you grow in your love for Him and the work He has done to make you eternally clean. Then perhaps in your thankfulness for your new life, you can be one of those who instead can serve Him and be clean!