Tazria – Torah for Today

Original Broadcast Date: April 18, 2015

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Transcript for Tazria Radio Broadcast

Beerman:

Well, Doctor, we are picking up from where we left off a couple of weeks ago.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, we had a Passover break, and now we are back to the regular studies of the Torah, Parsha by Parsha, and we were in the middle of Leviticus.

Beerman:

That was very appropriate for us to take time out and look at Passover in correlation with the seasons, but here we are back again. This is particularly interesting, because some of the rituals, some of the things that happen in these chapters for many Bible believers raise questions. What do we do with this? What does this mean? How do we apply it, and particularly in connection with being clean or unclean, in connection with several different things?

Rituals after child birth, laws concerning leprosy and so forth, of bodily discharges—things that are kind of awkward for people to even talk about or deal with. We want to get some answers for better understanding. What is going on? So let’s just start here in chapter 12 of Leviticus, and I am reading in verse 1, New King James version, “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, ‘Say…’” Just highlighting. It says the Lord gave this to Moses. It isn’t something he worked up, was it?

Bolotnikov:

Yes, when you look at the composition of the Torah, what we have especially the way how the Book of Leviticus is done I mean we probably like the Book of Genesis was recorded by Moses even before the event of Exodus then somehow the narrative is written along but then what we have the narrative stops at the chapter 19 and after chapter 20 most of the text in Torah is legal in nature so we are dealing with different type of laws and the laws initially we have the Ten Commandments and what is known as the Book of Covenant and we discussed about this Exodus 21 through 23 the laws were given on the Mount Sinai and the Book of Exodus describes the process of construction of the sanctuary and so the Book of Leviticus starts with the first statement , it is called actually in Hebrew “Vayikra” -and the Lord called and it says the Lord called to Moses from the tent of meeting so Moses comes regularly into the sanctuary to receive instruction from the Lord.

Beerman:

That is important that it comes from the Lord, commonly Bible believers may look back and say well that was the book of the law and the Tenth Commandment and the God gave that but then there is the law of the Moses and it is almost inferred in some people’s minds that Moses actually gave these and it is almost man’s made but indeed it is God directed.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, absolutely.

Beerman:

But it says here, “Speak to the sons of Israel, saying: If a woman gives birth and bears a male child, then she shall be unclean for seven days, as in the days of her menstruation she shall be unclean,” and then this goes on to describe, also, if she has a female child that there is a different period of time that the woman is considered unclean. But the main question is this. What makes her unclean, and secondly is there guilt here? Why is this person unclean, did they sin? Are they responsible for sinning here? What is the nature of this uncleanness?

Bolotnikov:

Well the answer, did they sin? Yes and no. First of all, we need to compare, to understand why I say, “Yes and no.” Part of the offerings which this woman brings into the sanctuary is sin a offering, but there is a difference in language. The difference in language can be discovered when we compare a sin offering which is described in Leviticus chapter 4 with the sin offering described here in chapter 12. Both offerings involves the priest, but Leviticus 4 says, “…and the priest shall make atonement for the sin he has committed, and it will be forgiven to him.”

So we have in Leviticus chapter 4 a person bringing a sin offering, as it is described, because he broke unknowingly a commandant of God, so he gets atonement and forgiveness at the completion of the atonement process. We discussed a little bit that the atonement is done when the priest ate the meat of the sin offering.

Here we have different statements. It says in verse 8 in the very last sentence that as soon as she brings two pigeons for a burnt offering and for a sin offering, the priest shall make an atonement for her (so there is an atonement), and she shall be clean. No forgiveness part, because she is not guilty in the fact that she gave birth to a child. There is nothing to apologize for. That is a great event!

Even if they refer to regular uncleanness, and Leviticus 15 speaks about different bodily discharges. By the way the bodily discharges aren’t related to woman. Anybody can have all kinds of different bodily discharges, but the emphasis here is going from the state of unclean. Now the person after these purification sacrifices, after the period of his/her cleanness, becomes clean, and that is a very important process here.

When we look at what causes a person to be unclean is so connected with our physical state and the signs of death that are present in our body, especially when we go into a very complex rituals of purifications from leprosy. The starting point here, the leprosy shows as a decay of the body and that is the physical sign of sin. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, their immortality disappeared.

Beerman:

It is interesting there is almost two chapters here dedicated to leprosy. That is probably a common disease and something they fear a lot.

Bolotnikov:

We do not know, and it is a very complex ritual. I don’t think that was a regular leprosy as we know it because it is in Hebrew quote “tsaraath” means boils. I don’t know if leprosy is connected with a skin disease, but when we read for example the Book of Job about his leprosy, and others like Mariam’s leprosy, it is always connected with the skin, and leprosy shows the decay of the body.

Well childbirth is also connected with the curse of sin. Remember God says in Genesis 2, “In pain you shall delivery children,” and the fact that today we do not have in the western world such a high mortality rate is a recent luxury.

Beerman:

That is true, even up to just a century ago and not too much after. So they would have made those connections with death and of course leprosy as well. So going back to the issue of uncleanness, you have connected that with the state of our bodies and death, but there is an atonement made. So there is almost kind of moral overtone here, in a sense, isn’t there?

Bolotnikov:

Well, there is, and it’s not moral because atonement is not only moral. Atonement is connected with a sacrifice. So there is this substitutionary sacrifice which is made every time a person becomes clean after the state of uncleanness, and this sacrifice definitely points to someone who died and made the ultimate sacrifice for us all. This is a great symbol of Jesus, who through his sacrifice not only provides forgiveness for our wrongdoing, because uncleanness is not our wrongdoing. Uncleanness is unfortunately our unavoidable situation. Sin brings with it mortality, but the sacrifice of the Messiah actually resolves the problem of sickness and mortality, too. That’s the great symbolism here in these sections of the Levitical law.

Beerman:

So I suppose we would think the wages of sin, or we could say the result of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life, and so not only does He put aside the moral aspect. He is covering the very fact that we just die because we are sinners, and we are born into sin. He covers everything including our health problems and our liability to death.

Bolotnikov:

That is important because as we look at the Book of Leviticus, we have a model which is fulfilled in the Gospel. I hear this all the time. Preachers always emphasize the fact of Calvary and forgiveness of sin, which is good, but somebody who has a life style which is considered, according to the Bible, sinful asked the question, “So what I am going to get for it? My sins are forgiven, but I want to do this and that, and do I really care for being forgiven?” This is how the world thinks. Everybody dies no matter what.

The book of Leviticus, in the first section up to chapter 12, is about sin and forgiveness of our wrong doing and change of our character, but the second part is about changing our body—actually the fact that our sins are forgiven, then leads to the reward we get—that we have a healthy body which has no mortality in it and eternal life.

Beerman:

So it just goes beyond forgiveness.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, it goes beyond forgiveness. These chapters are actually demonstrating the direct benefit which every believer has. This is what you are going to get after your sins are forgiven. You’re going to get healed from all the diseases, and you will live happily forever in a perfect body.

Beerman:

It is interesting. I find in the margin in my Bible a reference to Luke 2. We know that Mary followed the provision made here at Jesus’ birth. She brings the two turtledoves.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, exactly. She follows the law. We are talking about the consequences of sin. Every woman wants to bring the sacrifices after a successful childbirth, no complications—the child is healthy. To who do we owe it? Of course to the one who died for us.

Beerman:

So should we inscribed any hygienic significance at all to what is going on here, because some believer feels that this has to do with hygiene or cleanness likely. We wash our hands when our hands get dirty. We touch something in the hospital, and the nurse washes her hands. So is there any hygienic association really at all here?

Bolotnikov:

It is kind of double sided. On the one hand if we look at Leviticus 15, it says, “Anybody who touches somebody who is unclean is unclean until the evening, then needs to wash the body and wash their cloths.” First of all we need to understand what the uncleanness state is all about, because in the Jewish law there is kind of dichotomy here. First of all according to the Book of Leviticus, a person in a state of uncleanness is not allowed to eat the peace offering at the temple. So he is not barred from anything else, unless there is a case of leprosy. A woman is not barred from anything else during her cycle except just walking into the temple and participating and eating the peace offerings. That is very important.

However in the orthodox Jewish Halacha, they do understand that there is no temple, but since there is a commandment of how to take care of uncleanness, there is no sacrifice, but there is washing of the body. So in the synagogues, they have a special pool, which is called “the mikvah.” Women especially go every month to wash themselves, and if something happens to a man, they do wash themselves that way.

It is interesting. In a number of Christian churches (I am referring to the Russian Orthodox Church. I don’t know about Greek Orthodox churches, but I know about the Russian Orthodox church), the woman is not allowed to enter the Church if she has her monthly period. This is ridiculous because the church is not the temple. You are not eating any kind of peace offerings there. So it is very clear that this has nothing to do with hygiene.

Beerman:

It is totally associated with the death that’s in our bodies.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, that is a symbol. Yes, it says a person who touches becomes unclean, but this is not a prohibition saying we cannot take care of the sick people. It is just saying that if you do this, just go with the procedure—like a nurse who walks into a room with a patient must wash the hands. So there’s no problem with that. So the uncleanness is not associated with a person becoming bad, but it is still not a hygiene issue.

A woman in her monthly period is not infectiously contagious. There are some, but it is not about that. It is about the symbolism. In a way these laws are like a theatre. It is a theatrical performance. Remember that the temple rituals were made not only for Jews. They were made as a demonstration of the divine plan of redemption to everybody who walks into the temple. So this is in a way a theatrical performance that shows the symbols of what the redemption through Messiah and his death is going to give us.

Beerman:

That is fascinating, interesting and helpful to understand, otherwise it just looks like an almost arbitrary law. If it’s not hygienic, why do we do it? But it makes sense when we understand the association with sin and death. Then it makes a lot of sense.

Bolotnikov:

Yes, definitely. There are a couple of hygienic laws, and they are very different—like Deuteronomy 23. There it talks about the shovel a person needs to have in order to do things when he goes to relieve himself. That is hygienic. This is not hygienic. This has nothing to do with hygiene, no.

Beerman:

A question comes up. For instance we look at the chapters just before this series, Leviticus 12 through 15. You have clean and unclean food, or clean and unclean animals for instance. Just reading through, there doesn’t seems to be any association with sacrifice, so is the cleanness and uncleanness different in Leviticus 11 (with the animals and so forth) than it is here? I just did a little study on this, and I see the terms clean and unclean throughout these chapters are the same. There is no differentiation in terms, so what might be the difference, or is there any difference?

Bolotnikov:

Well, the difference is in the context, because here is a person unclean. A woman gives birth a child. She is unclean for a certain period of time. Then this period of uncleanness ends. Before she enters the temple, she needs to offer a sacrifice.

Another example is in chapter 19. There is a death in the family. Everybody who participates in the funeral becomes unclean for 7 days. Even today Jews have some kind of a remembrance of this—the seven days of mourning, the Shiva. But the point here—seven days end. Somebody who is clean needs to sprinkle on them the water of the Red Heifer—water mixed with the ashes of the Red Heifer.

So this is consistent. You become unclean. You have to observe the period of uncleanness. (If you fail to do this, you are doing a very grave sin. You are defying the sanctuary.) Then you go through the purification ritual, depending on the situation. Then you are clean.

You go to Leviticus 11, which says animals such as the pig, rabbit, shellfish, shrimp, lobster are unclean. It is the animals that are unclean. It is not the person who is unclean. The person is commanded not to eat it because these animals are unclean, and there is no term of uncleanness for these animals.

Beerman:

No ritual for becoming unclean?

Bolotnikov:

No, there is no ritual that will purify the pig.

Beerman:

So that begs the question, in just the moments we have left. I know within Bible-believing circles particularly when we look it at Acts 10 and Mark 7. Many understand that Jesus made a pronouncement that He declared all food clean. So how do we understand that? What we do with that? Does that relate with these or doesn’t it relate with these?

Bolotnikov:

No, that doesn’t relate to our discussion—neither Leviticus 11 nor Leviticus 12 through 15—because Jesus in Mark 7 and Mathew 15 referred specifically, and the Gospel says, it is the Pharisee’s tradition not the Bible—a Pharisaic tradition dealing with purification of hands through washing. By the way, there is no text in the Torah that deals with purification by washing the hands. It is either washing of the body or sacrifice, but no mention of washing the hands. So the washing hands tradition comes from the Persian Zoroastrian cult. That is why Jesus condemned it.

Beerman:

Tradition—the keywords—human traditions, not God’s commandments as we know them. Thank you, again for these clarifications, these answers on difficult topics.


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