Leviticus/ Va-Yikra 12:1 - 15:33
For the week of May 2, 1998
6 Iyar 5758
Torah means "teaching" or "direction." Its purpose, as is the purpose of the entire Bible, is to direct us in God's ways - the way of life. The Bible helps us to relate to life's circumstances free from superstition and fanciful opinions.
In our portion this week we have the directions given to the people of Israel, telling them what to do if individuals were infected by destructive skin diseases. Following these directions would prevent the spread of these awful diseases and ensure longevity for the nation.
The hygienic practices given to Israel by God were radical for the time. It is incredible how Western Europe which claimed allegiance to the Scriptures took so long to apply these life-preserving principles. There are some good spiritual lessons here too, for certainly we should be as concerned of the destructive nature of immorality as ancient Israel was to be over these diseases. But as I was reading these chapters I was struck by how Israel was being taught to relate to this kind of disease, both in terms of what they were told to do as well as what they were not told to do.
First, while they were to deal drastically with this kind of disease, there was to be no assumption that the sufferer had done anything to deserve the disease. From ancient times until now, we have tended to assume that people get diseases because of wrongs they have committed. While immoral behavior could result in disease and sometimes disease comes as judgment, this is not necessarily the case. The fact of contracting a terrible disease, should have no reflection on the victim.
Another interesting thing is how there were no religious rituals prescribed until after the victim was healed. One might expect a prescription of a whole set of rituals to help bring about the victim's restoration. But nothing of the sort was to be done until afterwards.
Israel was kept from the superstitions common to many ancient (and modern) cultures. Israel's spirituality was not about the religious acts of miracle workers. Rather by offering sacrifices following the healing of a disease, an emphasis is placed upon gratitude to God, not human acts and rituals. We cannot free ourselves from life's most difficult predicaments.
If we would look at life's predicaments from God's perspective as in the case here, we would find freedom from the burdens of guilt and superstition we so easily place upon ourselves.