For the week of May 5, 2007 / 17 Iyar 5767
Torah: Vayikra / Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23
Haftarah: Ezekiel 44:15-31


Spiritual Cleansing

Say to them: "For the generations to come, if any of your descendants is ceremonially unclean and yet comes near the sacred offerings that the Israelites consecrate to the LORD, that person must be cut off from my presence. I am the LORD." (Vayikra / Leviticus 22:3)

As God's creatures, we were made to know him intimately. The relational aspect of our being human, reflects the profound relational component of life, the greatest of which is our relationship with God. That this relationship is not what it should be, is life's greatest tragedy. It is the primary cause of our deepest longings and fuels all other forms of relational brokenness, whether that be with our fellow human beings, the animal kingdom, the earth's environment, or the rest of the universe.

The human drive to pursue various forms of intimate relationships is evidence of this brokenness. We know things are not what they should be. We want real, loving, meaningful relationships. We want to be at home in the universe. We know that the troubles we experience on a regular basis, including pain, disease, and disaster of all kinds, are to be resisted and overcome. To give in to the brokenness of life is to give up.

The Torah helps us to understand the cause of our brokenness in the hope that we will discover God's remedy. Until we can accept this fundamental problem and its cause, we will have great difficulty grasping the remedy.

The Torah illustrates for us the separation between ourselves and God, while at the same time underscoring the need for an intimate relationship with him. We see this, for example, in the priests of Israel. Their very existence makes it clear that the people were to draw near to God. Yet in so many ways we see through the priests the reality of the great gap between us and him. While the priests had the great privilege of entering God's inner sanctum on behalf of the rest of us, if they failed to meet the detailed requirements, they risked death.

Israel was reminded over and over again that while we could have relationship with God, we were not fit for such a relationship. We are unclean. We need cleansing. The good news is that if the priests would be properly prepared, they could approach God without fear of death.

Like the priests of old we cannot approach God unless we are ceremonially clean. If we are clean, we can approach God without fear of death. But unlike the priests of old, we no longer have the Torah-prescribed ceremonies. Instead we have what the Torah anticipated: the Messiah. Through him and the cleansing he provides, we are able to approach God in a far more intimate fashion than the ancient priests. It is through the Messiah that we can have the kind of relationship with God which our hearts so long for.

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