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Vayikra/Leviticus 15:2 Any man who has a discharge from his flesh, his discharge is unclean.
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Never being squeamish about addressing bodily functions, which are so often seen as a threat to the purity of the sanctuary and the people, the Torah here launches a chapter that discusses discharges - normal and otherwise - from the sexual organs. Although our text addresses males, the chapter will move on to consider females with the same dispassionate and matter-of-fact style. The repeated word , literally "man, man" or "a man, a man" is frequently used to address the generic man - any man, each man - so applying the teaching to every man within the Children of Israel. The noun comes from the root , "to flow, overflow" (Davidson), throughout this chapter translated 'discharge'. - literally , from his flesh - is taken by the classic commentators as a euphemism for the penis. Having identified the source of a discharge, the Torah then tells us that such a discharge is ritually impure; having waited seven days, he must "wash his clothes, and bathe his body in fresh water; then he shall be clean" (Vayikra 15:13, NJPS) and will go on to require a sacrifice of two pigeons or turtle-doves - "the one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering" (v. 15, NJPS) - for atonement beforeHaShem on the eighth day.
We know that this discharge cannot be the normal ejaculation of semen during sexual intercourse since the Torah explicitly covers this a few verses later - "if a man has sexual relations with a woman, they shall bathe in water and remain unclean until evening" (vv. 18). Baruch Levine explains that "the true function of semen is realised when a man inseminates his wife in fulfillment of the divine command to be fruitful and multiply (B'resheet 1:28). That impurity is minor, lasting only one day, requiring both to bathe in fresh water; no sacrifice is required. The discharge in our text, therefore, must be an abnormal discharge, brought about by infection or injury and, as such, is considered both contagious and prohibiting access to the sanctuary until the discharge has stopped and the standard purification process has been undertaken.
Prominent though the root is in this chapter - its various forms appear here fourteen times - this appears to be a minority usage in the Hebrew Bible. David Clines says that the root is used 41 times in the Tanakh, and although there are one or two others with the 'discharge' meaning, the majority are used in the well known phrase " flowing with milk and honey."1 Clines' first meaning for is when it is used with land - to flow, to run - and for this he cites the verse where HaShem says, "I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land to a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey" (Shemot 3:8, NJPS). Clines' second meaning covers the word's use with water - to flow, to gush - and for this he cites the prophet describing the way the HaShem provided water for His people during the wilderness journey: "Though He led them through parched places; He made water flow for them from the rock; He cleaved the rock and water gushed forth" (Isaiah 48:21, NJPS). RabbiHirsch suggests both these meanings are summed up as "gushing forth miraculously."2
Yeshua gives a practical demonstration of the way G-d's provision gushes and flows in abundance. It had been a long hot day, teaching the crowds by Sea of Galilee. This was not long after Yeshua's cousin John the Baptist had been killed and Yeshua had been trying to find a secluded spot for a little peace and quiet, but the crowds had followed Him on foot from all the surrounding towns. Yeshua has been busy since early, healing the sick and teaching the people, but now it has reached evening. Everyone needs to eat, but this is an out of the way place, remember? The disciples tell Yeshua that He needs to send the people away to buy some food for themselves before it gets any later, but He tells them that they are feed the people. "No, no," the disciples reply, wondering if perhaps the Master has had too much sun today, "we have only five loaves here and two fish" (Matthew 14:17, ESV). John adds a little more detail: "five barley loaves and two fish" (John 6:9, ESV). No can do; no way. Now, are you watching very carefully?
"Bring the loaves and fish over here to Me," Yeshua says, before telling all the crowd to sit down on the grass. Then He takes the bread and fish in His hands, looks up towards heaven and says HaMotzi - the standard blessing for a meal with bread on the table: Blessed are You, O L-rd our G-d, who brings forth bread from the ground." That's all very well, the disciples are thinking; there's enough for Him, but what about everyone else? Do we all get a blessing from watching Him eat? But now the miracle starts: Yeshua breaks the loaves of bread and starts handing them out to the disciples; "Pass this on," He says, "then come back for more." It must have taken hours, but do you know what? "They all ate and were satisfied" (Matthew 14:20). And all means all; everyone had enough to eat. Matthew tells us that "those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children" (v. 21, ESV). If we assume only one child or woman per man, that's ten thousand people satisfied on five loaves of bread and two fishes. That's gushing forth miraculously!
But you haven't heard the best bit yet. Not everyone had managed to eat everything they had been given. After a long day, some of the children probably went to sleep over theirs and dropped bits on the ground. The place looked like a well-used picnic site: fragments of bread and fish everywhere, so like good stewards, the disciples started picking up all the leftovers - we can't just leave it lying around! It took them a little while, perhaps while Yeshua packed the crowd off home and prayed for a few more folk He hadn't got around to earlier. It wasn't really until they had finished that the disciples themselves got a glimpse of what "gushing forth miraculously" meant. There were "twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over" (v. 20, ESV).
Yeshua used a public feast day at the Temple in Jerusalem - HoShana Rabbah, the last day of Sukkot, considered the greatest day of the feast in those times - to draw everyone's attention to gushing forth. We need to remember the backdrop to this: on the last day of Sukkot there was a water pouring ceremony when jars of water from the Pool of Siloam were poured on the great altar while the aravot - the Sukkot willows from the brook - were symbolically beaten on the floor. In the middle of the clouds of steam and uproar, "Yeshua stood up and cried out, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water'" (John 7:37-38, ESV). He builds on the words of Isaiah who said, "Behold, G-d is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the L-RD G-D is my strength and my song, and He has become my salvation" (Isaiah 12:2, ESV). The prophet trusts in G-d above all else and overflows with His praise. Yeshua offers God's abundance and supernatural provision to those will come to Him to "draw water from the wells of salvation" (v. 3, ESV), rivers of living water - the power and in-dwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
If we are to experience God's flowing in abundance - the flowing with milk and honey of His presence and His Spirit in our lives, our home-groups and our congregations - then we must come to Yeshua and seek His life for ourselves. We must joyfully participate in the life and ministry of the kingdom, as Isaiah says: "Give thanks to the L-RD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the peoples, proclaim that His name is exalted" (v. 4, ESV). It is as we give out, as we copy the disciples in passing out the loaves and fishes that Yeshua broke, that we will experience the flow of G-d's power and the exhilaration of being swept along by the wind of the Spirit. For the kingdom of G-d is like the Land of Israel; it is "a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, where you will lack nothing; a land whose rocks are iron and from whose hills you can mine copper" (D'varim 8:7-9, NJPS), well resourced for carrying out the work of the King.
We cannot be content to sit on our hands in these days, simply being well-fed but inactive. Our job is to follow Yeshua every more closely, tracking the flow of the Spirit blowing on our cheeks as we hear His voice saying, "This is the way, walk in it" (Isaiah 30:21, ESV), when we turn to the right or the left. We shout and rejoice, witnessing clearly to Jew and Gentile alike, declaring that "great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel" (12:6). We are to proclaim the kingdom of G-d, heal the sick and raise the dead - as the Spirit gives us grace and opportunity - so that others may know the reality of G-d and accept His invitation to join Him on the journey!
1. - David J. A. Clines (ed.) The Concise Dictionary of Classical Hebrew, (Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2009), page 98.
2. - Matityahu Clark, Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew - based on the commentaries of Samson Raphael Hirsch, (Jerusalem, Feldheim, 1999), page 64.
Further Study: Psalm 118:14-17; Isaiah 41:15-20; John 4:10-14
Application: When was the last time you moved in the flow of the Spirit and saw the power and grace of the kingdom being manifest before your eyes? Ask the Great Coxswain to nudge you back into the main flow and use you to help someone to appreciate and accept Yeshua for the first time.
Comment - 18:45 03Apr22 Kate: Father, thank You for this journey through Your living Word from the limitations of our flesh into the abundance of Your Spirit! Lord let Your rivers of living water flow through us and out of us into this thirsty world for Your name's sake.
Comment - 03:40 03Apr22 Di Stanfield: Thank you for this commentary. As you so often do, you've hit the spot with it. This highlights the relevance of the Torah. The frankness with which everything is discussed was a bit confronting at first - but it shows that if we follow Torah, we're not working blind, but using the handbook Ya gave us. No other belief has this, given from the heart of our living creator God.
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© Jonathan Allen, 2022
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