By Rabbi David Markel Hall
This week’s Torah portion is devoted to the topic of what makes a person clean or unclean.
When times of natural uncleanness come, we are to avoid touching anything which is holy. Once again we must connect with the spiritual implications of what is being taught. If we can follow the format of what is given this week, we can come to a much clearer understanding of what G-d expects of us.
Please Note! Uncleanness does not indicate we are rejected by G-d. A woman having a child has no bearing on whether or not she is acceptable in G-d’s sight. Neither is there a difference in the sex of the child. So why would G-d tell us that a woman is unclean after having had a child? Because the L-rd knows women need time with their children after giving birth. This “lets them off the hook” with regard to religious practice so that proper bonding with the child can occur. Had He not given this instruction for mothers, they would feel obligated to continue their strict observance of rules and worship. Since they are unclean, they are not required to maintain normal observance.
While Girls need more time to bond with their mothers, they mature much faster than boys. The unclean state for a female child is twice as long as for boys but this is not a sign of inferiority. It does allow for the mother to have the needed time with her child to develop healthy relationships at birth.
With men, there is an ordinance dealing with uncleanness for semen emission. During the days of the Temple, the young men slept in quarters in the temple during the days of their service. When one of them had a semen emission during the night, he went go down to the miqveh chambers where there was a privy, and cleanse himself, spending the rest of the night there. The next morning he left the Temple and went home. This ordinance is for the good of the men who served the L-rd. It is difficult to keep one’s mind spiritual when such things happen. The L-rd knows this and made allowances to take care of private matters. It does not show that the person was inferior or unacceptable in any way, but that there was a need to take care of personal physical concerns.
Only the service we do for the L-rd counts toward Olam HaBah (the age to come). This causes many of us to place much emphasis on our religious life. When we become consumed with religious practice, our tendency is to neglect the physical matters.
The sacrifices tell us that everyone will die. Only those who’s living and dying are dedicated to the L-rd count for anything in Olam HaBah. Every animal used as sacrifice would have died a natural death. But to die for G-dly cause is an honor and a privilege.
There are people who give little attention to spiritual life. They should learn to give unto G-d the things that are G-d’s and to Caesar (the natural) those things which are Caesar’s. (Mark 12:17)
As we strive for perfection in spiritual matters, we must keep in mind that there are “natural” concerns that also need our attention. After we tend to these natural concerns we should resume our “priestly” duties and attend to spiritual matters.
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