12 April 2024

Torah portion: Leviticus 12:1-13:59   Haftarah: 2 Kings 4:42-5:19 Theme: Holiness


From The Women’s Bible Commentary. [p.38].:                                                                                 

Holiness in the religion of biblical Israel…was not just a spiritual quality concerned with ethics, morality or religious faith. These certainly played an important part, but holiness went far beyond such concerns. For the priestly caste in particular, it involved every aspect of human conduct, from rising in the morning to retiring at night. All acts of daily life were circumscribed by detailed prescriptions and proscriptions—a long list of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots”. These included both cultic acts of divine worship and ethical acts such as loving one’s neighborneighbour (Lev. 19:18,) Also included were seemingly mundane physical acts, especially those basic to the survival of the individual and the group, such as eating and sexual relations (Lev 11 and 18). Leviticus ordains that these acts be performed in a distinctive manner, subject to specified restrictions whose overall effect is to set apart or sanctify” certain individuals and particular aspects of life.

Holiness could also be a matter of one’s physical state. Tazria begins by stating that a menstruating woman is ‘unclean’. The reason for this is that menstruation was seen as one example of ‘the escape of the forces of life”. To quote from The Jewish Study Bible [p.232] this spiritual uncleanliness or tum’ah “is not demonic, not created by or connected with evil spirits or malicious deities. Neither is it the same as modern notions of dirt or filth, or infection. Rather, it is a simple fact of life, a part of nature…there is nothing morally repugnant about a human corpse or the carcass of an animal, there is nothing sinful about menstruation or sexual intercourse, and there is no evil in a genital flux or a disease of the skin….The grievous and dangerous sin connected with impurity is rather that of remaining impure, of failing to dispose of impurity once one has contracted it, thereby allowing it to spread and to come into contact with the sacred, i.e., the sanctuary and its furnishings.”

For Reflection and Discussion:  I was brought up in the Anglican Church and so became familiar with the “Prayer of Humble Access”, written by Thomas Cranmer: “We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy: Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his body, and our souls washed through his most precious blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.

Bibliography:  Berlin, Adele, Brettler, Marc Zvi, (ed.F), The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford UP, NY:2004);    Fox, Everett (trans.), The Five Books of Moses (Schocken Books, NY: 1995); Etz Hayim: Torah and Commentary (Jewish Publication Society, NY:2001); Meyers, Carol (general ed.), Women in Scripture (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids MI, 2000); Newsom, Carol A. and Sharon H. Ringe, ed., The Women’s Bible Commentary (Westminster/John Knox Press: Louisville KY, 1992); https://anglicancompass.com/the-prayer-of-humble-access/ This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Anne Morton
, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2010


Comments are closed