Already you are clean because of the Word that I have spoken to you.
Leviticus 11 tells us about food fit for consumption and teaches us the laws of clean and unclean. Much has been misunderstood in this text. At first we are told about foods permissible for consumption (Leviticus 11:1—23) and it is pretty strightforward. We will refer to those as, kasher כשר, edible, and tareph טרף, non-edible. Whereas modern science continues to find health benefits to the Levitical diet of edible foods, the primary reason for these ruling is not health. If Hashem would forbid pork because of trichinosis, why doesn't he forbid chicken because of salmonella? The only reason we are given for this is sanctity (Leviticus 11:45).
Levitical 11 teaches us about another type of food fitness. Whereas the first was concerned with fitness regarding consumption, the second is concerned regarding ceremonial fitness. There are no perfect English words for the Hebrew tahor טהר, translated as clean, and tamei טמא, translated as unclean. Ceremonially fit or unfit would be more appropriate. For the sake of textual integrity, we will keep these in Hebrew.
Tahor and tamei actually refer to an animal in its dead state, and technically speaking are only relevant as per approaching Hashem via the Tabernacle or later the Temple. Even the carcass of any animal, even edible, killed improperly is ritually contaminating. It is not ritually contaminating to own a pig neither or a dog; ritual contamination is only in the carcass of an animal. Human carcasses are technically tamei (even if properly slaughtered, God forbid!), whereas the carcass of a properly slaughtered cow is tahor. This understanding gives a whole new twist on the story of Abraham going to offer his son. It also brings a new wrinkle to the narrative about Samson. Samson was a Nazarite from birth. He was supposed to stay in a state of continual tahor-ness, therefore eating honey from the carcass of a lion went against his Nazarite condition. This is why also certain animals are allegeable for offering and others are not, regardless of the animal.
We must understand that the conditions of tahor amd tamei have nothing to do with hygiene, personal sin, or morality. A woman is tamei after having a baby; that is not a sin but obedience to a fundamental divine command (Genesis 1:22). These conditions have only to do with the state of being human. As human beings we have dead cells, tamei particles in our body all the time, so that we can only enter the presence of the Almighty by proxy through the blood of a kasher animal, and/or immersion in a ritual pool. We must take into consideration though that these rulings only concern our relationship with the temple in Jerusalem, so until it is rebuilt, they are only applicable on a symbolic level
But here is the good news: Yeshua knew and anticipated a very long Temple-less exilic period of time. He told the Samaritan woman "…The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father (John 4:21)”. At his last Seder with his disciples Yeshua also said, “… You are tahor because of the word that I have spoken to you (John 15:3), so through Yeshua ourheavenly High-Priest, the writer of the letter to the Messianic Jews (Hebrews) tells us, ":with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).
May we always have the confidence that by virtue of the name, obedience, righteousness, and tahor-ness of Yeshua, we can always enter in the presence of the Father to obtain his favor.
P. Gabriel Lumbroso
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