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(Lev 14:1 - 15:33)

Vayikra/Leviticus 14:54   This is the law for all tzara'at and afflications involving hair loss


Coming at the end of a significant block of regulations (all of chapters 13 and 14) concerned with the various manifestations of tzara'at in people, buildings and clothing, and before moving on to the next topic, the four verses starting with this text form a summary of the preceding material. Levine comments that while the formulaic - this is the law - "often serves to introduce a manual of practice, as in verse 2, here it serves as a concluding statement." Earlier in the chapter, the phrase introduces a sequence of ritual for a particular situation, the sanctification ritual; at this point it marks the end of the conversation on this topic block and is followed by the names only of all the conditions previously discussed.

Who Is ...

Hirsch: Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888 CE), German rabbi, author and educator; staunch opponent of the Reform movement in Germany and one of the fathers of Orthodox Judaism
Hirsch, who translates as "and for alopecia", suggests that the first to elements in the list of conditions are the most extreme forms, positively and negatively respectively, that the class of affliction takes, thus bracketing the following verses. Who Is ...

Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (1040-1105 CE), French rabbi who wrote commentaries on the Torah, the Prophets and the Talmud, lived in Troyes where he founded a yeshiva in 1067; focuses on the plain meaning (p'shat) of the text, although sometimes quite cryptic in his brevity
Rashi, passing over the individual conditions, picks upon the two significant events in the course of the affliction: "which day renders him pure and which day renders him impure." Before and after, the person is ritually clean; in between he is ritually unclean; but Rashi sees the most important parts as the transition from one state to another and the ritual that accompanies or accomplishes the change. Who Is ...

Sforno: Rabbi Ovadiah Sforno (1470-1550 CE), Italian rabbi, philosopher and physician; born in Cesena, he went to Rome to study medicine; left in 1525 and after some years of travel, settled in Bologna where he founded a yeshiva which he conducted until his death
Sforno adds that "he who comes to instruct regarding the afflictions must know how to differentiate between two kinds of affliction even though they are of one class, as it says, 'between affliction and affliction ' (D'varim 17:8)", suggesting that the cohen who makes the decision must have considerable expertise and experience.

Sforno's comment, however, also points to a larger principle: "two kinds of affliction even though they are of one class". Our text explicitly says that "this is the law for all tzara'at and afflictions". Though there are different manifestations with their own particular distinguishing marks, seen in different places or materials, and with a range of intensities, they are nevertheless all one class of item: tzara'at. As one basic item, therefore, there is one law that prescribes how it is to be treated from a ritual point of view. Like the tzara'at, that law takes different forms - a blemish on someone's head is clearly treated in a very different way from mould forming in the walls of someone's house - but the principles of repeated examination, isolation and purification apply in all cases.

People, on the other hand, try hard to distinguish between different classes of sin; they will talk of telling "white lies" as if this somehow makes breaking one of the Ten Commandments acceptable. The Roman Catholic church teaches a difference between mortal sins - which lose one's place in heaven - and venal sins - which supposedly result only in varying times of punishment or purification in purgatory. As human beings, we try to excuse much of the sin in our lives, areas where we fall short of the conduct and behaviour that G-d expects of us, as being only trivial in nature and so not significant to G-d. We use phrases such as, "G-d will understand" or "I'm sure G-d will overlook this" in order to justify what we think are only minor infractions of G-d's standards. Some will even go as far as shrugging their shoulders and accepting sin as part of the human condition, saying that it doesn't matter because that is why Yeshua came: to pay the price for our sin; "we can't help it and He knew it, so He came to fix the problem for me."

Oddly, that isn't how the Scriptures see things. Rav Sha'ul writes: "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing and things like that, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of G-d" (Galatians 5:19-21, NASB). Sins of a wide range of natures, including some that most people would not even consider to be sin, are all grouped together as "deeds of the flesh" and Rav Sha'ul is explicit that those who do them will not inherit the Kingdom of G-d. He is just as definite in another list, where he talks about people rather than actions: "Do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of G-d? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolators, not adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the Kingdom of G-d" (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, NASB). It would seem that G-d has a very black and white view of sin - something either is sin or it is not sin - and that any sin knowingly tolerated or practiced prevents us from being in proper relationship with Him.

How are we supposed to move forward from here? Rav Sha'ul again: "Wretched man that I am! Who will free me from the body of this death?" (Romans 7:24, NASB). Our salvation lies in exactly this property. Our text from the Torah says: "this is the law for all tzara'at" and sin works in exactly the same way: "the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of G-d is eternal life if Messiah Yeshua our L-rd" (Romans 6:23, NASB). Sin is sin and results in death, regardless of what it is; freedom from sin is freedom from sin, regardless of what it is: "Behold the Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29, NASB). We confess our sin, make appropriate restitution or reconciliation with the other people concerned, receive G-d's forgiveness by faith in Yeshua and have moved from darkness to light, from death to life, for "There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Messiah Yeshua" (Romans 8:1, NASB).

Further Study: John 5:28-29; 2 Corinthians 5:16-19

Application: Do you find yourself excusing actions and habits in your life that you know in your heart would not please G-d? Get a life! Recognise them for what they are - sin - then repent, confess them to G-d and ask Him to forgive you. Job done; receive His forgiveness in Yeshua and move on - you have a life to live for Him, without sin. Go to it!

© Jonathan Allen, 2008

06Apr08 08:15 Stuart: Thank you yet again. A very important indicator and confirmation that what I am preaching this morning is correct.

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