Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them: Any man who will have a discharge from his flesh, his discharge is contaminated.
–Vayikra (Leviticus) 15:2
It is learned from this verse that only the Children of Israel are subject to the laws of tumah; people of other nations do not become tamei with the onset of any of the symptoms described in these laws. The severity with which the Jewish people are treated with regard to tumah is reflected in the term “speak to,” a term that implies a severe or stringent communication (see Rashi to Shemos 6:2).
A Torah Thought for the Day, p.215
Thursday’s commentary on Parashas Metzora
A Daily Dose of Torah
According to this commentary, only the Jewish people are susceptible to what one person has called “spiritual skin disease,” not the people of the nations. We don’t have this disorder with us today to test that belief even though we know that these conditions did exist in the time of Jesus (Yeshua):
While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”
–Luke 17:11-19 (NASB)
Well, wait a minute. A Samaritan was among those men of Israel who were healed of tzara’at? How can this be if the commentary above states only the Children of Israel suffer from this affliction?
And this isn’t the only incident:
Now Naaman, captain of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man with his master, and highly respected, because by him the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was also a valiant warrior, but he was a leper. Now the Arameans had gone out in bands and had taken captive a little girl from the land of Israel; and she waited on Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, “I wish that my master were with the prophet who is in Samaria! Then he would cure him of his leprosy.”
It happened when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, that he sent word to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Now let him come to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.” So Naaman came with his horses and his chariots and stood at the doorway of the house of Elisha. Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh will be restored to you and you will be clean.” But Naaman was furious and went away and said, “Behold, I thought, ‘He will surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.’ Are not Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage. Then his servants came near and spoke to him and said, “My father, had the prophet told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child and he was clean.
–2 Kings 5:1-4, 8-14
A non-Jew, Captain of a foreign army, and a pagan was afflicted with this disease and cured by the Prophet Elisha. How can this be? Especially given the following from the same “Torah Thought for the Day:”
However the verse immediately adds [Hebrew phrase]. The root of [Hebrew word] can carry the connotation of “distinguished.” Klal Yisrael is thus told that their being subject to more tumah than others is a sign, not that they are on a lower level, but that they are being held to a higher standard. For when there is no tumah, there can be no exalted level of purity either.
As I mentioned, this condition doesn’t exist among the Jews or anyone else in the modern era, probably because the proscribed cure involved submitting one’s self to the Levitical priests, which as an organized body, are not currently present.
I can see the line of reasoning regarding only Israel being vulnerable to becoming tamei due to their special chosen status and, being given the Torah, having a much higher obligation to Hashem than the people of the nations.
But in Messianic times, upon the Temple being rebuilt and the priesthood being restored, will the laws of tumah also be re-established?
This might be the only way to test whether or not Gentile believers, disciples of the Master, Rav Yeshua, will endure such a visible indicator of their/our sins.
Of course, in the resurrection and under the New Covenant, people will possess an unparalleled apprehension of the Holy Spirit and it will become natural for them to not sin, so perhaps the whole point is moot.
The curing of Naaman by Elisha led the foreign Captain to the worship of the One true God of Israel, so his becoming tamei was ultimately for his benefit.
The Samarian who was unclean was also healed for the glory of the Almighty.
I can believe that the Jewish people are expected to exhibit a higher level of spirituality, and the consequences of failing that results in a greater level of discipline from their God than for the rest of us. However, when a Gentile comes to faith in God through the faithfulness of the Jewish Messiah, we are grafted into the blessings of the New Covenant (indwelling of the Spirit, promise of the resurrection), so who is to say that more isn’t expected of us as well, not necessarily in the manner of the Jews, but more nonetheless?
If Hashem were to reinstate this class of afflictions tomorrow, would Gentile believers be as vulnerable to them as the Jewish people and for the same reasons? Perhaps we are fortunate in never knowing for sure.
Sorry it’s taking so long to submit my next review from the Nanos and Zetterholm volume Paul within Judaism: Restoring the First-Century Context to the Apostle. I’m currently in the middle of an essay written by Mark Nanos and it’s rather verbose. Hopefully, I’ll have the article read and a review written by early next week.