Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah #28: M’tzora ( Person afflicted with tzara’at) Vayikra (Leviticus) 14:1-15:33
Haftarah: M’lakhim Bet (2 Kings) 7;3-20
B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 9:20-26
This week I had a question about the two living clean birds described as the sacrifice required for the purification of one who has tzara’at. The question was why did the live bird have to be dipped in the blood over running water along with the cedar wood, scarlet yarn, and hyssop? Isn’t that cultish?
The question is a valid one for those who have not learned the context behind the literal text. Indeed, in order for translation of any text to be correct, it is the concept behind the literal word that must be understood. This is a growing process, learning from the “simple” to the more complex. I recently completed a course addressing the issue of communicating with those who do not speak English as a first language using interpreters or translators. One of the references used in the course stated the very same truth. A word-for-word translation cannot reflect the true meaning or concept of the text if the context is not understood. So it is with this passage ( Lev. 14:1-7).
It is no coincidence that this parashah is read during the Passover season and the feast of Unleavened Bread. We will see the connection as we explore this scripture. Just as the Law mandating the separation of those who had tzara’at was very strict, the same Law was gracious in restoring an individual healed of the illness. Right away we see the “law and grace” of G-d’s Torah and YHVH/Yahshua himself. It is important to note that the healing was not affected by man, not the priest, not a witch doctor, not a naturalist. We can and should always seek the L-rd’s intervention on our behalf when we need healing or curing, even when we seek treatment from a healthcare provider. In the end, we must acknowledge that G-d can and does work through others at His will for his purpose. This truth becomes clear when the priest went to examine the one who had been healed. While it was necessary for the priest and no one else to grant permission for the individual who was afflicted to proceed with the ritual or process of cleansing, the people understood that the priest could only pronounce one clean. He was not the one responsible for the healing. This was and is left to G-d. Note the parallel between the priest having this exclusive duty and Yahshua as our High Priest being the one to declare us clean once we go through the process of repentance, reconciliation with G-d through Yahshua’s sacrifice, then begin our walk on the King’s Highway, G-d’s Torah. The difference is that the priest was incapable of affecting a healing, but YHVH/Yahshua can and does cleanse and restore us to His fellowship.
The process of cleansing was very complicated and full of precious truths that parallel the cleansing process today. The priest gave orders most likely to the relatives of the person who recovered to bring two live ritually clean birds, cedar wood, hyssop, and a scarlet string. The order was given for one of the birds to be killed so that its blood could be caught in a pot made of earthenware that already had clean fresh running water. The pot had to be clay because once it was used, it had to be destroyed. The blood in this pot was used in the restoration of this one particular individual. It would not be efficacious in restoring another individual. We can see a parallel here to the restoration process of individuals today. We are individually accountable to G-d and no one else can save us in the end.
The death of one bird became identified with the physical illness of the individual. We are reminded of the exchange-of-life principle. This concept is spoken of in the B’rit Chadashah (“New Testament) where Sha’ul (Paul) speaks of the new man (2 Cor. 5:17). This new man concept means that we are to live what we believe. To be forgiven of our PAST sins (2 Pet 1;9; Rom. 3:25) clears the way for us to then walk forward in the ways of G-d; His Torah: His Laws/instructions. We are not free from sin, but we now have the ability and the power through Yahshua to overcome the animal nature, the human nature to sin. The restored individual had the requisite as do we to live what we say we believe. That is deeds, actions, works according to G-d’s definition and not the traditions of men (Oral Torah). The life of the bird that was killed was given to the recovered individual to symbolically represent the sacrifice that was made and his/her obligation to make life changes.
The running water that also had to be fresh, was symbolic of cleansing and purification. Recall in the B’rit Chadashah the description of blood and water flowing from Yahshua’s side (John 19:34). It was a symbol of the carrying away of fleshly uncleanliness so that the restored individual was cleansed of his sickness. This description of the purification process is the basis for what is described in the B’rit Chadashah and must be understood before one can understand the references and use of this combination of blood and water used in the “New Testament.”
The priest took the live bird, the cedar wood, and hyssop that was attached together with the scarlet string and dipped them in the pot of running water and the blood of the slain bird which represents new life. The fresh running water represented the “Living water,” Yahshua. The restored person was sprinkled seven times. The individual was pronounced clean, and the live bird was set free.
Let’s talk about these objects in more detail. Cedar wood resists decay and corruption. Hyssop has a very pungent odor, thereby rendering it resistant to corruption and decay as well. The scarlet string that tied the cedar wood and hyssop together represented the blood that cleanses one from sin (corruption and decay). The thread that was necessary to hold the other objects together represents the need for all of them for full restoration. The water and blood together emphasized that the restored individual was cleansed by receiving a new physical life. The seven-fold sprinkling represented a perfectly complete action, purifying and restoring the Israelite. It is incredibly interesting that the definition of a true believer is found seven times in the book of Revelation stated in various ways but always indicating that a true believer “carries the testimony of Yahshua and guards the commands of G-d. You can go to the website at rabdavis.org and search the seven-fold witness for the specific verses.
The live bird, sprinkled with blood and associated with the physical illness, was set free over an open field. The restored person understood this to mean that the old life has vanished and that he should never face that particular corruption again. For us this means that we should not repeat the same sins over and over. We are not perfect, but we are expected to “straighten up and fly right!” Yahshua’s sacrifice does not give us a golden ticket to an ungodly lifestyle or complacent belief. The purpose of this purification ritual was to emphasize the innocent life required for our sins so that we can be restored and saved in the end. This process did not provide for an instantaneous once cured always cured situation. It is clear that when we become corrupted, we must go through the process that takes time to receive forgiveness, and/or healing/curing. Just as one bird was set free never to be seen again, our PAST sins are forgiven IF we go through the process of restoration required by G-d. Today we do not use birds, hyssop, cedar wood or scarlet yarn. These physical objects were used to teach us the concept of carrying the testimony of Yahshua (reconciliation through trusting in Yahshua’s faithfulness and ( obedience to G-d’s Laws). The objects and the process of restoration reflect the crucial concept of what is required when we sin that we may be restored to harmony and fellowship with YHVH/Yahshua.
When the process of restoration was complete, the healed person washed his clothes and shaved off his hair. Then he bathed. Washing is a part of the purification process that also has spiritual ramifications. Shaving the hair was an additional precaution to ensure full healing. Although the Israelite was then allowed back into the camp, he was not allowed to rejoin his family for seven days. If the healing was confirmed, the restored individual shaved off every hair on the body, washed himself and his clothes. However, this was not the end of the process.
The restored Israelite was not yet fully admitted back into the community until the eight day which represents rededication. This was a time for the restored individual to reflect on his past from which he had been delivered. He brought the appropriate offerings as he asked for dedication of his body and soul and anointing. He had to meet with the priest at the door of the tent of meeting as if he were meeting before the L-rd . The priest took one of the male lambs with a pint of oil and waved them before the L-rd. The first offering, the male lamb, was presented as a trespass offering which is contrary to the procedure described in chapters 4-5. It could be that the emphasis was on the specific sin of the individual but was also a reminder that one of the effects of sin from the Fall of Adam was/is illness.
Another feature of the restoration process emphasizing forgiveness and the requirement to take personal responsibility for ones life and follow G-d’s Torah is shown in the priests application of blood on the lobe of the Israelite’s right ear, right thumb, and on the big toe of his right foot. This is similar to the procedure for consecrating the priests. The symbolism in this case is that the restoration of an individual has a spiritual emphasis regarding “hearing and obedience” reflected in Deuteronomy 6:4-11, and “walking” in G-d’s ways. For the final step in the restoration process, I encourage the reader to study the remainder of this parashah for time constraints prohibit going further on this subject in this lesson. However, I want to make one more comment on the contaminated dwelling.
The process of decontamination and restoration of individuals, clothing, and/or homes were intended to make Israelites and us aware that we live in a work of sin, that we cannot hope for restoration , spiritual cleanliness, or forgiveness without Yahshua’s sacrifice paving the way that we might be saved in the end. We are always in the midst of evil, but there is always a way out. Sha’ul (Paul) mentions this as well in 1 Cor. 10:13. Regarding the necessity for deeds or works as part of the equation for salvation Yahshua tells us “ Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give it to everyone according to what he has done” (Rev. 22:12).
Haftarah: 2 Kings 7:3-20
King Ben-Hadad of Aram had taken the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria). The famine that followed was catastrophic, with many turning to cannibalism (2 Kings 6:28-29). King Jehoram of Israel wanted to kill Elisha, considering that his prayers could have prevented everything that happened. Elisha reassured the king, “So has G-d said, ‘At this time tomorrow, six quarts of fine flour will sell for only a shekel, and half a bushel of barley for a shekel at the gate of Shomron.’” One of the king’s officers scoffed at the prophecy: “Behold, if G-d makes windows in the sky, will this thing come about?” Elisha responded, “Behold, you will see with your own eyes, but you shall not eat from there.” What faith Elisha had in G-d.
Four men suffering from the famine were living in quarantine outside the city. They were suffering from tzara’at. They decided to approach the enemy camp to beg for food. When they arrived, they found the camp deserted. For in 2 Kings 7:6 it reads, “For Adonai had caused the army of Aram to hear the sound of chariots and horses; it sounded like a huge army; and they said to each other, ‘The king of Israel must have hired the kings of the Hitti and the kings of the Egyptians to attack us.” The entire enemy army fled, leaving behind their tents, horses, donkeys, and provisions. They went to the city and reported what they found to the gatekeepers who informed King Jehoram. Although he originally thought this was an ambush, he sent messengers who confirmed what was reported. The people swarmed out of the city and looted the enemy camp, thereby breaking the famine and fulfilling Elisha’s prophecy. The king’s officer who mocked G-d was placed in charge of the city gaits by the king. But he was trampled to death by the crowds after seeing the fulfillment of Elisha’s prophecy.
If we are grounded in G-d’s Torah, even during times of crisis we will not demonstrate physically or spiritually, the chaos that is seen in our world of antinomianism. We are to prepare our physical and spiritual “storm closets” and trust that G-d will bless us and guide us through any storm for His glory. Indeed, calm in the midst of a storm attracts the attention of those who do not understand how a person can resist fear and panic. Believers who are alive today are here for this reason; to show ourselves approved by G-d in the midst of a degenerating and corrupt world.
B’rit Chadashah: Matthew 9:20-26
“A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tzitzit on his robe. For she said to herself, ‘If I can only touch his robe, I will be healed.’ “Yahshua turned, saw her and said, ‘Courage, daughter! Your trust has healed you.’ And she was instantly healed. When Yahshua arrived at the official’s house and saw the flute-players, and the crowd in an uproar, he said, ‘Everybody out! The girl isn’t dead, she’s only sleeping!’ And they jeered at him. But after the people had been put outside, he entered and took hold of the girl’s hand, and she got up. News of this spread through all that region.”
The first thing we notice is that trust requires action. The woman went to Yahshua to reach for his tzitzit. This is similar to the lesson learned about Naaman last week. He had to go to the water (Living Water in a manner of speaking). The water did not hop up out of its banks and run to Naaman.
This issue takes us back to our parashah. Recall that a bloody discharge of a woman represents the passing of potential life. An unfertilized egg is dead, and thus makes a woman ritually impure, as does her menses (Lev. 15:19-30). In our scenario, this woman with an issue of blood (abnormal bleeding) comes to touch Yahshua’s tzitzit because she knows through her trust in Him that simply touching his garment can heal her. It’s interesting that Yahshua felt her touching his tzitzit even though he did not see her touch it. Let’s look at Mark 5:25-35 for confirmation; “Among them was a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years and had suffered a great deal under many physicians. She had spent her life savings; yet instead of improving, she had grown worse. She had heard about Yahshua, so she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his robe; for she said, ‘If I touch even his clothes, I will be healed.’ Instantly the hemorrhaging stopped, and she felt in her body that she had been healed form the disease. At the same time, Yahshua, aware that power had gone out from him, turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples responded, ‘You see the people pressing in on you; and you still ask, ‘Who touched me? But he kept looking around to see who had done it. The woman, frightened and trembling, because she knew what had happened to her, came, and fell down in front of him and told him the whole truth. ‘Daughter,’ he said to her, ‘your trust has healed you. Go in peace and be healed of your disease.’”
He felt the energy exchange that occurred. As the Cohen haGadol (High Priest), Yahshua made atonement for her before Adonai on account of her unclean discharge (See Lev. 15: 30) for an interesting parallel. G-d’s Torah is just as applicable today as it was when it was written (Matt. 5:18). Let us not lose sight of its applicability and instructions that can guide us to our destination if we but follow them and not allow the Adversary to distract us with worldly events and temptations.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart