For the week of May 7, 2016 / 29 Nisan 5776
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 16:1 – 18:30
Haftarah: 1 Samuel 20:18-42
Originally posted the week of April 16, 2011 (revised version as appearing in the book “Torah Light”)
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For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins. (Vayikra/Leviticus 16:30)
Do you enjoy the feeling of clean? You know what I mean. After working or playing hard on a muggy summer day, when you finally have a nice long shower, there’s nothing like that feeling of being free from the stickiness of sweat and dirt.
The Torah uses the terms unclean and clean to describe our state before God. The effect of sin in our lives makes us dirty in a very real sense. While this reality is spiritual, not physical, it is no less real.
Being dirty physically isn’t bad in itself, yet it can prevent us from participating in certain situations. While grease and grime may be appropriate for a car mechanic at a service garage, it wouldn’t do to be covered with dirt at his wedding. In the same way, spiritual uncleanness makes us unfit to enter God’s presence.
Our awareness or lack thereof is no indication of how physically dirty we may be. Human beings are quite adaptable and can get used to all sorts of things, including dirt. Getting comfortable with dirt doesn’t change the fact of dirt. It’s the same spiritually. How aware we are of our uncleanness may or may not be an accurate reflection of our spiritual state.
The Torah assumes that human beings get dirty spiritually and provides cleansing through the sacrifices. This is a foreign concept for most of us. We don’t tend to think of ourselves as spiritually unclean. But this is the very reason for our alienation from God. Due to sin, we are unfit to be in God’s presence, which in turn undermines human existence in every way.
Spiritual cleansing as prescribed by the Torah was only a partial solution, in that it only allowed the people to participate in the religious affairs of the nation. It never really made the people fit to be in God’s presence. In fact, it actually served as a reminder of how terribly dirty we really are.
When Yeshua celebrated his last Pesach (English, Passover) with his disciples, he washed their feet to demonstrate (among other things) the humble attitude we should have toward each other (see John 13:1–20). As he was about to wash Peter’s feet, Peter understandably reacted to the Messiah’s performing the function of a common servant. Once he understood that this act was necessary for him to truly be part of the Messiah’s life and mission, he asked that Yeshua might also wash his head and hands. To this, Yeshua made a most profound pronouncement. He said to Peter, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean” (John 13:10). While it is still necessary to deal with the uncleanness of daily living, as signified by the need for foot washing, Peter was clean. He was clean but didn’t know it. He didn’t feel clean. He thought he was still dirty.
Do you feel dirty? Unlike physical cleansing, spiritual cleansing isn’t naturally or automatically felt. But if you, like Peter, have turned to Yeshua as your Master and Messiah, then you, like Peter, are clean. Ah, the feel of clean!
All scriptures, English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible