middot cleanliness besorah dry-cleaning for the soul

dry-cleaning for the soul

Written by  rav rafael

art-cleanersIt’s strange to say, but unfortunately the spiritual disease of tzara’at does not exist today.  Life might be a little easier if we had a physical barometer of how well our soul is connected to others and to the Divine.  Once we see the physical signs we could get some help, repair, restore, and reconnect.  Today our purity of soul is much more difficult to measure so we must be proactive in it’s care.

The middah of nekiyut (purity and complete taintlessness) is our measure of soul purity.  Our Sages teach us that the Naki (one who has perfected nekiyut) has developed keen discernment for the seeds that cause sin and spiritual negativity.  This person starts by distancing himself from the sins of thought.  This starts with shaking himself clean of the more common sins and replacing them with the zeal of worship and doing good deeds.   As his heart is cleared of physical lusts, it is replaced with longing for G-d which instills yirah, fear and awe of Heaven.

But what comes out from the mouth comes out from the heart, and this is what makes the man tamei. For out of the heart come wicked thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immorality, thefts, false testimony, and reviling. These are the things that make the man tamei... (Matt 15:18-20, DHE)

This process of purifying our inner world is done through purifying the “garments” of the soul known as thought, speech, and action.  These aspects of our lives need to go through a process of dry-cleaning.  Yeshua teaches us about purifying our inner world in his famous teachings from the mount.

You have heard that it was said to the first ones, “You shall not commit adultery.”  But I tell you, whoever gazes at a woman to covet her has surely committed adultery with her in his heart.  And if your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and cast it away from you. It is better for you that one of your members be lost than for your entire body to descend to Geihinnom.  And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away from you. It is better for you that one of your members be lost than for your entire body to descend to Geihinnom. (Matt. 5:27-30, DHE)

Indeed this is the method of the Naki.  The purity of our actions starts with the purity of our thoughts.  When we let potentially destructive thoughts grow in us unchecked, we get used to them being with us.  These visiting thoughts take residence in our minds and hearts.  The unwelcome “guest” soon takes up permanent residence.  Eventually they grow to influence our actions leading us to sin.  Yeshua says to kick out those guests by purifying the innermost essence.  In fact, he helped people do this kind of thing in the streets of Israel.

A man who was a metzora came to him, and he pleaded with him and fell down on his knees, and he said to him, “If you are willing, you are able to make me tahor!” Yeshua had compassion on him; he reached out his hand and touched him, and he said, “I am willing. Be tahor!” While he was still speaking, the tzara’at departed from him and he became tahor.  He warned him and quickly took him outside.  He said to him, “See to it that you do not tell anything to anyone, but go show yourself to the kohen, and make the sacrifice for your tehorah that Mosheh commanded for testimony to them. (Mark 1:40-44, DHE)

We know the willingness of Yeshua to heal our affliction and purify our lives.  This passage contains an implicit act of profound repentance by the metzorah.  He wants more than healing for his body, but healing for his thoughts, speech, and actions.  Yeshua sees this willingness and removes the impurity from his body, and commands him “be tahor.”  The body is healed, but the person must finish the process by going to the priesthood to be reintegrated into society.  This process demands the repentance process be continued and always be reflected in the “garments” of the soul.

Rabbi Eliezer would say: The honor of your fellow should be as precious to you as your own, and do not be easy to anger. Repent one day before your death. (Pirkei Avot 2:10)

Our own pursuit of nekiyut begins with the inner world of thought and is strengthened by profound repentance.  Rabbi Eliezer advises that we repent often for we never know our last day.  Through this process we dry-clean the garments of the soul bringing about purity of speech and action.  Be tahor!


Gospel references taken from Delitzsch Hebrew Gospels (DHE)®, © Copyright Vine of David 2010. Used by permission.

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