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Vayikra/Leviticus 14:2 This is the law of the person with tzara'at: in the day of his cleansing, he shall be brought to the priest.
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The classic commentators pick up on two words in the verse: - literally "in day" but because it is in a construct chain, "in the day of" - and - a Hof'al affix 3ms form from the root , "to come", with a vav-reversive construction, meaning "and he will be brought".Nachmanides points to two possible meanings of "in the day of his cleansing". The first is that on the day that he is pronounced clean, he is to be brought to the priest, for it is only the priest who can make this pronouncement; while the second is that on the day that he actually received physical healing, there must be no delay, he must be brought to the priest. That opinion is also proposed by the Sages in the Sifra1 commentary. Rashi goes further to stress, "This teaches that they do not purify him at night"; that the ritual of purification may only take place during the day, for no sacrifices are offered at night. The witness of the ritual and the declaration of purity must be performed in the public arena.
Turning to the second word, Nachmanides adds that "without delay, he must be brought whether he wants to come or not - even against his will". This comment seems puzzling. Why would someone not want to come to the priest and be declared clean? Why would someone want to remain alone, outside the camp, isolated from the rest of the community? Ibn Ezra explains: "he shall be brought - once the affliction has left him, he may not wish to bring that to which he is obligated". The parasha is next going to describe another week of publicly living outside his own tent within the camp, two rather extreme shaving processes, full bathing and the washing of clothes, and then a ritual process involving two birds, an earthenware vessel, cedar wood, scarlet material and hyssop. Once the physical manifestation of the tzara'at has left him, the person concerned may not want to go through all that rigmarole or pay for the two birds; he may be content just to be physically healed and take a rain-check on the rest! This is why he must be brought, so that the process can be completed properly, otherwise there would be people running around in the community who looked perfectly alright, but who were - unknown to everyone else - ritually impure, who could pass that impurity on to others by touching them or their food, and who would affect the spiritual life of the whole community.
Yeshua was concerned about the way people appeared, looking clean but in fact being unclean, when He rebuked the Pharisees: "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness" (Matthew 23:27, NASB). Touching or passing over a grave brought ritual uncleanness; priests in particular were instructed not to become unclean in this way, except for the closest family. This is why El Al flights make a sharp turn immediately after take-off from Ben Gurion airport in Israel, to avoid flying over a cemetery located in the normal direct line of flight beyond the airport perimeter. Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees because their visible level of observance made them look ritually clean, their inner state and attitudes made them unclean and their teaching would spread that state of impurity to others in the same way as treading on a grave renders a person unclean. Their teaching and attitudes would spread to other people and would affect the state of the whole community.
Yeshua also spoke about things that were said or done in secret: "For nothing is hidden that shall not become evident, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light" (Luke 8:17, NASB), also Matthew 10:26 and Mark 4:2). All three synoptic gospels record this saying, with almost identical wording, so it must have made a significant impact both upon the original hearers and on the early church community. This was obviously important to Yeshua; so much so, that He obviously spoke about it again later on: "But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Accordingly, whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops" (Luke 12:2-3, NASB). It isn't just what is done or recorded in documentary form, so that it might be witnessed or seen later, the disclosure also extends to things that are said and whispered, where there may be no human witnesses save the immediate parties involved. In every place and every circumstance, there will be universal disclosure. This should be no surprise, given the words of the Psalmist: "Where can I go from Thy Spirit? Or where can I flee from Thy presence? If I ascend to heaven, Thou art there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, Thou art there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Thy hand will lead me, and Thy right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,' even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to Thee" (Psalm 139:7-12, NASB), so that the prophet also says, "Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the L-RD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the L-RD" (Jeremiah 23:24, ESV).
The apocalyptic vision of John makes it plain that this disclosure is not only evident to mankind, but that he will be unable to avoid it: "And the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come; and who is able to stand?'" (Revelation 6:15-17, NASB). Finally, John records a fearful picture of the final judgement when all mankind will stand before G-d to hear His judgement: "And I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds" (20:11-13, NASB). Everyone, but everyone, will be there and everything, but everything, will be on the table. No holds barred.
How are we to prepare for this? What can we do to make sure that we will be able to stand in that situation? The principles in the parasha apply to us today: without delay and in public. Peter started the ball rolling on the day of Shavuot when he preached Yeshua openly in Jerusalem. The people were pricked in their hearts and asked what they needed to do to be saved; he replied, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38, NASB). Do it now, he urged the people; don't delay or prevaricate. Around 3,000 people took his advice and were baptised in the ceremonial mikvaot that were at the bottom of steps on the southern wall of the Temple mount, provided especially for pilgrims who had come to bring offerings to the Temple. Not only was this a public act - in front of all the people and the Temple officials - but they did it immediately, on the day that they came to faith in Yeshua, the day they received their cleansing.
Rav Sha'ul gives us the second part of the story in his letter to Rome: "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9, NASB). Our confession of faith, our turning from sin, has to be a vocal and public affair, not a private and silent decision. It is only in speaking out that our private resolution becomes actualised and accountable. As we confess Yeshua before the world, He will confess us before the Father.
1 - also known as Torat Kohanim - The Law of the Priests.
Further Study: Matthew 8:4; Luke 11:39; Job 34:22-27
Application: Has your faith always been something between only you and G-d? Are you shy or nervous about letting others know that you are believer? Now is the time to move forward in your relationship with G-d and confess Him as your Saviour.
© Jonathan Allen, 2011
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