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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Tazria 27-2

(She) will conceive

Leviticus 13:6-17

The priest is to examine him, and if the sores have turned white, the priest shall pronounce the infected person clean; then he will be clean.

Lev. 13:17 NIV

Who commands? Heaven or earth?

The priest received authorization from heaven to pronounce a person with the plague of tzaraat (translated as “leprosy") clean or unclean. Though the Torah shows all the details to determine if a person had been infected by the plague or not, only the priest had the authorization to pronounce him ritually clean or unclean. Once pronounced clean, the person had the right to enter the camp and the tabernacle; unlike when declared impure or unclean, that he wasn't even allowed to enter the camp.

This teaches us that Heaven has delegated earthly authorities the right to decide how to apply the Torah's instructions in practical situations.

This also teaches us that even if the man fulfilled all the conditions of the Torah to be clean, he wasn't officially clean until the priest pronounced him so. Let's suppose that there is a case in which the priest mistakenly pronounces someone as ritually impure when this person is actually pure by the indications of the Torah. Would that person have the permission to enter the camp and the temple? No. In this case, the priest's pronunciation outweighs the fact that the Torah describes him as clean. The Torah's description of tzaraat doesn't authorize him to act on his own account as if he were ritually clean without the priest's declaration.

  This matches the principle that says that whatever authorized leaders bind (forbid) on earth will be bound (forbidden) in heaven; and, that whatever authorized leaders loose (allow) on earth, will be loosed (allowed) in heaven (Matt. 16:19; 18:18).

This is the principle behind the right of dictating practical laws based on the Torah's instructions given to the authorized leaders.

If we transfer this principle to the declaration of a new moon and the feasts of the Eternal, we understand that the rabbis acknowledged by the Jewish people have the faculty of announcing when such days should be celebrated, as it's written in Leviticus 23:2: "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'These are my appointed feasts, the appointed feasts of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies:" (NIV)

Who are "you" in this text? In this case, not all Jews, but authorized leaders who guide the people. They have the duty of agreeing among themselves and the right to decide when to celebrate new moons and feasts of the Eternal. What they pronounce will be respected in heaven, because it was from heaven that the authorization to the people's leaders came.

If everyone did what they saw fit, the people wouldn't gather on the same dates and it would be very chaotic. Those who don't respect the authorities in these issues create division and confusion among the people.



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