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Vayikra/Leviticus 15:16 ... and he shall wash in water all his flesh and he will be impure until evening
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Never being one to shrink from discussing human biological functions where necessary, the Torah is midway through a set of rules for people who have various types of bodily emissions. Ranging from open wounds or sores to a woman's monthly menstrual flow, most categories of natural or exceptional loss are covered during the discussion. This particular verse concerns a male who has a loss of semen; Baruch Levine points out that this particular rule is amplified in Moshe's recapitulation of the Torah on the plains of Moab: "If anyone among you has been rendered unclean by a nocturnal emission, he must leave the camp, and he must not reenter the camp. Toward evening he shall bathe in water, and at sundown he may reenter the camp" (D'varim 23:11-12, JPS), but that in the same way as natural intercourse (Vayikra 15:18), this regulation does not require a sacrifice: just washing and waiting until evening is enough to restore purity.Ibn Ezra stresses that the loss should be involuntary; deliberate loss - as, for example, by Onan, the son of Judah, who did not want to father a son in his brother's name (B'resheet 38:8-10) - is a specific offense.
Ibn Ezra goes on to clarify that "the reference to 'all his flesh' clearly indicates that it means his whole body." He is supported byChizkuni, who says that he must wash in "enough water to contain his whole body, that is a quantity of water one cubit by one cubit by three cubits" - three cubic cubits! Rabbi Hirsch adds, "every tiny part of the body must come into direct contact with the water, no extraneous matter may be present on the body". Rabbinic practice is that when immersing in the mikvah a person should be completely naked. Gersonides makes the telling comment that, "All portions of the person's body must be immersed simultaneously; it is impossible to become partially clean. If any part of his body is unclean, he is completely unclean" (quoted by Michael Carasik in the JPS Miqra'ot Gedolot). The Psalmist, using the words that are echoed each year in the Passover Hagaddah, adds the thought: "Who may ascend into the hill of the L-RD? And who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart" (Psalm 24:3-4, NASB). It is not enough to be clean on either the inside or the outside, both must be clean in order to enter G-d's presence.
Focusing on one particular Passover Seder - the last one that Yeshua celebrated with His disciples, we find the following narrative: "So He rose from the table, removed His outer garments and wrapped a towel around His waist. Then He poured some water into a basin and began to wash the feet of the talmidim and wipe them off with the towel wrapped around Him" (John 13:4-5, CJB). It was customary in those days for a servant to wash the feet of those who had arrived at someone's house, to remove the dust, sand and grit from travelling. The seder itself includes hand-washing so, since only Yeshua and the disciples were present, Yeshua Himself took the part of the servant and washed the disciples' feet. Simon Peter protests and in spite of Yeshua's attempt to calm him down bursts out: "You will never wash my feet!" (v. 8, CJB). He is concerned with the propriety of having Yeshua wash his feet; so much so that he nearly misses the real point of what is going on. Yeshua has to remind him, "If I don't wash you, you have no share with me" (still v. 8). We who have the benefit of knowing Rav Sha'ul's priority for being "in Christ" might wonder why it was taking Peter so long to catch on, but suddenly he says, "L-rd, not only my feet, but my hands and head too!" (v. 9, CJB) - if that's what's at stake, then he's all in. He must be all clean, not just his feet. Yeshua points out that, "A man who has had a bath doesn't need to wash, except his feet - his body is already clean" (v. 10, CJB). The disciples are already clean because they have been with Yeshua, they have believed in Him and He has cleansed them. Their lives over the last three years have been total immersion in ministry with Yeshua and learning from Him.
When becoming a believer, many people compartmentalise their lives. They do church with one part of their lives and they go to work or play sport with other parts of their lives, maintaining separate personalities and sets of behaviour and standards in each compartment. Sometimes this is unintentional - they don't even realise that they are doing it - and at other times, it is a deliberate mechanism to prevent changes or influence in one area of their lives affecting other areas. Some compartmentalisers think that everyone lives like that - they only see other believers in church space, so have no way of knowing that anyone else lives in a different way all the rest of the time. This is rather like washing just one sleeve of a shirt, or only one leg of a pair of trousers; it is clean, but the rest of the garment continues to be as dirty as it was before.
In order to be fully a believer in Yeshua, to experience His forgiveness for our sins, the power and freedom of the Ruach dwelling inside us and a certainty of resurrection with Yeshua, we have to be totally committed to Him. A body cannot be resurrected with just one arm, the opposite leg and a couple of ears - it is all or nothing. We must bring all of our lives to Yeshua and allow Him to be our L-rd in everything that we are and everything that we do. We cannot hold things back, fearing that if we let Him touch this or that part of our lives then He may make changes that we don't want or wouldn't like. If He is not the L-rd of all of our lives, then He cannot be our Saviour either. "Any city or house divided against itself shall not stand" (Matthew 12:25, NASB)!
Of course this is usually a process; at the moment of first faith, we may give over all that we can think of at the time. Then, as time goes by, we realise that we also need to invite Yeshua to take control of our emotions, our finances, our relationships, our jobs, our families; in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, He needs to be in charge of everything. This may take a while, as things come to light and He asks us to let go of more and more, but the process is critical. If we hold back and refuse to release something into His control then it becomes locked and our progress in getting to know Him and becoming like Him comes grinding to a halt; we give the enemy a foothold in our lives. We must be sure that we are true and full followers of Messiah Yeshua so that we know where we stand. He said, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters" (Matthew 12:30, NASB).
Further Study: Psalm 51:1-4; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:25-27
Application: Today would be a good time to conduct a spiritual inventory and check for signs of compartmentalisation - are you holding on to an area of your life that you won't let Yeshua have? If so, then you need to start negotiations for hand-over and become united under His headship - a true citizen of the kingdom.
© Jonathan Allen, 2010
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