In this week’s Torah Portion, Parashat Tzav, the Lord God instructs Moshe, Aaron, and his sons on the sacrifices. The Torah states in Vayikra / Leviticus 7:1, א וְזֹאת תּוֹרַת הָאָשָׁם קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים הוּא: 7:1 And this is the instruction of the guilt offering it is a holy of holies. (NASB) Here the Hebrew text states הָאָשָׁם קֹדֶשׁ קָדָשִׁים הוּא “the guilt offering is a holy of holies.” The question this presents for us is, “What makes an offering to God holy?” Is it the altar? Is it the way it was brought? Is it the Tabernacle? Is it the priest? Or is it found in the way we obey God’s Word (the Scriptures) according to the detailed instructions that are laid out in the Torah? When we consider the word Kedoshim (קָדָשִׁים) meaning “the holy one’s” this draws in the idea that God has made us holy by separating us from the world and drawing us near to Himself. This is also drawn out in Parashat Kedoshim which speaks on the instruction (laws) of holiness and ethical behavior. The Lord God makes us holy through His Word, for example, in Parashat Kedoshim we find a repeat of the ten commandments, and the description of the penalties for sexual transgressions. When we obey God’s Word we separate ourselves from the way of the world. Therefore, what makes something holy unto the Lord is the setting of something apart for the Lord and doing so according to His Word (His instructions). The halakhot on the offerings comprise a significant portion of the Torah. In addition to this, in Judaism, the Mishnah on Kodashim, there is an entire six orders of the Mishnah and Talmud devoted to these matters. The significance of the sacrificial service in the Temple is so great that the Sages have said that it is one of the pillars upon which the world stands (see Pirkei Avot 1:2). Although the offerings ceased with the destruction of the Temple, they are still significant and central in Judaism and the book of Vayikra / Leviticus has a lot to teach us about holiness and living for the Lord! The offerings were meant to facilitate drawing near to God and receiving forgiveness. All the types of offerings, despite the many differences between them, manifest the close relationship between man and his Creator. In the concept of drawing near due to the sacrifice, the innocent life that takes our sins, this is how the Apostolic Writings say we are brought near to God by faith in Yeshua the Messiah.
In addition to these things, the Torah emphasizes the importance of intention regarding sin and guilt before God. The Mishnah describes these things with a discussion on the offering being unfit if not offered in an appropriate manner. When we connect this to holiness, we draw in this concept of seeking the Lord, His will for our lives, and living according to His Word. The idea of intentional sin leads to the shortened life as opposed to unwittingly sinning. The idea of striving for the righteousness of God because He has made us a holy and righteous people is a Torah centric principle. The book of Leviticus discusses the topics of sacrifice and of being a community of people who bring their sacrifices before God. As a people who go before the Lord God Almighty at the Tabernacle, Moshe writes about the topic of ritual purity, and the bringing of a sacrifice required one to be ritually pure prior to entering the holy place before God. The Bible has many rituals of purification relating to menstruation, childbirth, sexual relations, nocturnal emission, unusual bodily fluids, skin disease, death, and animal sacrifices. The impurity spoken of consists of either an intrinsic impurity (i.e. someone who suffers from a constant flow, tzaraat skin disease, or nocternal emission) or an extrinsic impurity (i.e. acquired from touching a corpse, or touching someone who suffers from a constant flow [i,e, niddah/menstral], or from someone who has tzaraat, an animal that is unfit for food, or from flying or crawling creatures that are unfit for food). Ibn Ezra states that the reference to one’s uncleanness being upon him (וְטֻמְאָת֖וֹ עָלָ֑יו) this was a reference to one having undergone a purification process of seven days as in the example of having touched someone who was dead but has not yet gone through the sunset of the seventh day. Ibn Ezra’s discussion on impurity from for example touching the dead or an unclean animal, does not have a serious effect upon the soul of the person concerned. Ibn Ezra states this is analogized to a veil of impurity that only envelops the outside of the body of a person. He reasons concluding with why the ritual of immersion is sufficient to remove the vestiges of the impurity. He then makes the statement that the immersion (mikvah) would become ineffective if this kind of impurity had penetrated the inside of the body. This is a significant point, in the comparison of that which is without to that which is within. This was the point Yeshua was making on sin and the heart. Yeshua taught that which comes from within defiles a man because it is rooted in sin according to Mark 7. The issue at hand was the Pharisees believed one needed to go through a ritual of purification for the hands (washing) in order to eliminate impurity from the hands. The unwashed hands would or could transmit uncleanness to the one who is eating. This is a significant point because Yeshua was not doing away with what we read in Parashat Kedoshim where we are told the foods which are to be considered as food for us (clean and unclean food). Yeshua said in Mark 7:21 “For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 7:22 greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. 7:23 All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man.” (NASB) The point Yeshua was making was related to the impurity that comes from within a man through sin and lists those sins. The Pharisaic reference to the touching of something unclean is derived from Vayikra / Leviticus 7:21 where we read the following, כא וְנֶפֶשׁ כִּי-תִגַּע בְּכָל-טָמֵא בְּטֻמְאַת אָדָם אוֹ | בִּבְהֵמָה טְמֵאָה אוֹ בְּכָל-שֶׁקֶץ טָמֵא וְאָכַל מִבְּשַֹר-זֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים אֲשֶׁר לַיהוָֹה וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעַמֶּיהָ: 7:21 Moreover the soul that shall touch any unclean thing, as the uncleanness of man, or any unclean beast, or any abominable unclean thing, and eat of the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, which pertain unto the Lord, even that soul shall be cut off from his people. (NASB) The rabbis speak of the way this text is written asking why does the Torah chose to write וְנֶפֶשׁ כִּי-תִגַּע, a feminine way of describing the contact instead of writing איש כי יִגַּע the parallel masculine form? Correspondingly, why does Moshe write וְאָכַל in masculine form as opposed to the feminine form וְאֹכֵלָה? (Or HaChaim on Vayikra / Leviticus 7:20 Part 4) The Jewish commentary Or HaChaim claims the reason this is written in this way is to reveal to us that the contact with impurity was intentional and not merely accidental. This leads us to understand how the person becomes culpable of the penalty mentioned (to be cut off from his people, וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעַמֶּיהָ). The word נֶפֶשׁ (soul) alludes to the intentional act because this is a source from within. This was why Moshe writes this way (נֶפֶשׁ) instead of using איש (man). This is also why in Vayikra / Leviticus 7:20 the word נֶפֶשׁ was used instead of איש. The word נֶפֶשׁ (soul) alludes to the awareness of the sinner of what he is doing. This draws us back to Parashat Vayikra and that of unintentional sins verses intentional sins, there is no sacrifice for intentional sins in the Torah. Therefore, Teshuvah (Repentance) is absolutely necessary. This provides us with some insights into why the Lord God is long suffering with His people. The Lord God tarrying on punishment was such that His people would repent of their sins and turn from their wicked ways. The word נֶפֶשׁ indicates that the person who committed the trespass cannot claim unawareness of doing something wrong. This is alluding to the intrinsic impurity, that which comes from within which cannot be remedied by a mikvah. This provides us with additional insights into the comments from the Book of Hebrews that we have a better sacrifice in Yeshua the Messiah (Hebrews 9) because what he has done takes away our sin that is from within. Just as in these verses here from Vayikra / Leviticus 7:20-21 on uncleanness, the word נֶפֶשׁ implies that the guilty party was aware of touching something he should not have touched (verse 21) or he was aware that he ate something he should not have eaten (verse 20), this exposes the hypocrisy of men in their hearts and why Yeshua said in Mark 7:21 For from within the hearts of men come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 7:22 greed, wickedness, deceit, debauchery, envy, slander, arrogance, and foolishness. 7:23 All these evils come from within, and these are what defile a man.” (NASB) The reason the Torah wrote וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא, “this soul will be cutoff / exterminated,” is to teach us how God will not only punish the body of the sinner by premature death, but that He will also punish his soul by death. These things also teach us how one does not place his trust and faith in Yeshua (Jesus) and then turn and live a godless life the rest of his days. The idea in the concept of once saved always saved, the Lord takes a person out to bring him home because he was no longer of any earthly use, is not consistent with the Scriptures. This is clearly a false doctrine and should be avoided since it has no biblical basis! This is why Peter wrote what he did in his second epistle in 2 Peter 3:9 saying that the Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some would say, the Lord does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. The Lord does not delay the promise, as some esteem slowness, but is patient. The Lord is not slack concerning his promises, as some men count slackness, etc this is because He wants all to repent and to turn from their wicked ways. The eventual destruction that comes is not to whisk one home (to heaven). Death is the result of what we are reading here in Vayikra / Leviticus 7:21 of being cutoff due to a life of unfaithfulness, unrepentance, and sinful living. This is what the book of Vayikra / Leviticus is teaching us in the Torah portion, we are not to live an unrepentant life before God. Faith and faithfulness just doesn’t work like that, we must have faith and also must be faithful to God, His Messiah, and His Word! The Lord God Almighty, by His Holy Spirit, empowers us to overcome sin and to live our lives in repentance, daily.
In the Torah text that we have read thus far, three times the punishment of excision is stated with reference to people eating holy sacrifices in a state of bodily uncleanness. Entering into a state of ritual purity on the outside (physically) is not difficult. Obtaining this on the inside is what is most difficult and not possible without the help of God! This is synonymous to the unrepentant soul who thinks that he is partaking in a heavenly blessing by faith, while continuing to live a life of unfaithfulness to God and His Word. This is a very significant thing we are discussing here today! In the teaching on bodily uncleanness, Yeshua refocused us to the impurity of the heart and the need for atonement through repentance, faith, and sacrifice! There is a great significance in these things because they are related to the Lord God working in our lives, and our striving for His righteousness. If we teach people once saved always saved, or perpetuate this false doctrine by teaching it is true, there is the chance of leading someone right to Hell after a long life of assumption their words were enough to get them into heaven. The unrepentant life is a clear indicator that something is wrong on the inside (intrinsically), and that either one does not truly believe in the One the God of Israel has sent to save us from our sins. There is a very broad application to this teaching today, because it may directly be applied to those who accept LGBT as a way of life and claim they have the salvation of God by faith in Yeshua the Messiah. Note how most all Christian denominations accept this as truth today, that one who practices LGBT may go on practicing LGBT because all he or she must do is believe in Yeshua. This unrepentant lifestyle is an uncleanness on the inside that disqualifies the sacrifice of atonement in Yeshua. This is what the Author of the book of Hebrews was saying in Hebrews 10, “there is no longer a sacrifice for atonement for those who after knowing the truth continue to sin.” These are the reasons why the doctrine of once saved always saved is a great error! This is also why the Torah is a “must have” for God’s people to take the time to study and know what God wants for our lives. It is within this Hebraic way of thought that the Torah and the Gospel Message go hand-in-hand!