I love the times when reading something in the Torah, or other parts of the Old Testament, shines a new light on some message or story from the New Testament. On that note, I want to begin with the story about the woman with the issue of blood. The video above is the ApologetiX parody of Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” and it’s called “More Than A Healing” which is exactly what happened to the woman in the short version of our story from Matthew 9:20-22…
20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment; 21 For she kept saying to herself, If I only touch His garment, I shall be restored to health. 22 Jesus turned around and, seeing her, He said, Take courage, daughter! Your faith has made you well. And at once the woman was restored to health.
And if you click here, it will take you to a page including all the texts with that story, (from Matthew plus from Mark 5:25-34 and Luke 8:43-48). In addition, the link gives parallel views of all verses in both The Complete Jewish Bible and The Amplified Bible.
Today’s Torah reading is from Leviticus 15:16 through Leviticus 15:28, and it speaks of more private things about discharges and uncleanness. There are many reasons why these things would not fare well in our current society, such as not being able to call into work sick because you are unclean due to spending some intimate time with your wife. To the extent of uncleanness in these verses, you would have to stay in and away from people if you even touched the bedding. But I’m certain there was more to it than we have available in current Scripture, and I think the advent of soap probably makes a big difference from those who could only bathe and wash their clothes in water to be cleansed.
But it’s the rest of the verses that brought light to the story I’ve included above. The remaining subject in today’s reading is all about when a woman is on her menstrual cycle. If you were a woman without soap, pads, underwear, etc., it was something better to endure by yourself because no one would be–or feel–clean around you. The laws made the woman unclean during her entire time plus seven days, and it made everything and everyone she came in contact with unclean as well. No one could touch her or her garments, and no one could sit where she sat or sleep where she slept without also being considered unclean.
So use what I’ve just spoken of, or read today’s portion for yourself, and then go back and read about the woman with the issue of blood. Now think about it. For twelve years this woman has not only been sick and bleeding, but she has also been considered unclean. No one would touch her, no one would sit with her, and no one would hold her, unless they were willing to be called unclean for a time. She was sick, tired, and completely alone. I imagine doctors tried to help her by prescribing medications, like whatever herbal remedies they normally gave to women who had issues with menstrual flow. The doctors likely did not actually examine her because it would have meant they had to spend the rest of the day as unclean. If they touched her menstrual flow, they would have had to be unclean for seven days. For her, this was a hopeless situation…until she heard about The Messiah.
I’m guessing that when the woman made her way into the crowd, they stepped away from her because they did not want to take a chance of touching her and becoming unclean themselves. The audacity that she would even try to get near the Messiah might have made them step between Him and her, so she would not touch Him and make Him unclean. (Ah, but they knew so little, right?)
When you read the story in The Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll see that what she reached for was not actually his robe, but the Hebrew word tzitzit which is the fringe on his prayer shawl. For a single man, the prayer shawl is long, so the fringe would have been closer to the ground and easier to reach for a weak, and possibly crawling, woman. But this daughter of Israel knew the promises of God’s word. Those pieces of fringe had knots in them that represented God’s promises to His people, including promises of healing. She may have reached for the fringe because it was easier to grasp, or because it was easier to get to without people stopping her, or she may have reached for the knot that promised her the healing she could not get from the hands of man. I believe that was the act of faith (trust in God’s promises) that brought her healing.
In spite of her fear of being condemned for touching another human being in her unclean state, this faith-filled woman was willing to take a chance because of all she would get as a result of stopping the plague that had been hers for far too long. With her healed body, the woman was not only reclaiming physical promises of strength and health, she was also reclaiming physiological strengths–being clean again, being able to socialize again, and being able to live and work among her peers again. This was more than a healing; it was a declaration of peace and joy for her future.
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