Does Hashem dwell with those who are impure and contaminated?

  (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)

The Torah passages and Israel's holidays are full of important messages that are relevant and empower our day-today lives. Rabbi Shai Tahan, head of the Sha'arei Ezra community and head of the Arzi HaLebanon teaching house, opens the gates for us to understand these messages, from their source, in a clear way. This week: Parshat Acharei-Kedoshim.

We all know that Hashem’s Divine Presence dwells upon our nation. We also know that the more righteous and holy our nation is, the more the Divine Presence rests upon us, but are there times which Hashem completely rejects us and removes His presence from us? 

In our Parsha (Achrei Mot) there are two verses dealing with the above question which seem to completely contradict each other.

In the middle of the parsha, the Pasuk (ויקרא טז,טז)says that Hashem dwells with the nation amid their contamination. Rashi explains that even when the Nation of Israel is impure and contaminated, Hashem still dwells with us. This obviously shows the unconditional love that Hashem has for our nation, but when we read the very last verse of the Parsha (ויקרא יח,ל) we see a totally different approach. That Pasuk says: ‘’you shall safeguard my laws, not to do any of the abominable traditions that were done before you (by the gentiles), and not contaminate yourselves through them, I am Hashem your God’’.

Rashi comments that the Pasuk ends saying ‘’I am your God’' directly after commanding to keep the Torah’s laws and stay away from abominations, meaning to say that “I am Hashem your God only when your keep my laws, but if you’ll contaminate yourselves and become impure, I will not be your God and will remove my Presence from you”.

These two Pesukim seem to clearly contradict each other, as one says that Hashem’s Presence stays forever with us, even if we are contaminated, while the other pasuk says the opposite, that He can’t dwell with a contaminated nation. 

The answer to the above is clear once a person sees the verses in their context, as the two verses speak of very different scenarios. In order to understand this, we first need to learn about the concept of Tum’ah—impurity which has different meanings in different places in the Torah.  

Sometimes Tum’ah means to be spiritually impure, as a negative power surrounds the person. This impurity has the ability to contaminate others in different ways, for example, by touching. Other times it doesn’t have anything to do with such impurity, despite bearing the same name granted by the Torah, Tum’ah.

When the verse says that Hashem dwells with the impure, it is in the context of those who became impure through touching a corpse. Such a person might have thought that Hashem would not want to dwell with him with such impurity, hence the Torah comes to assure him that Hashem doesn’t take away His Divine Presence from him.

But when the Torah speaks of forbidden things, the Torah calls them Tam’eh—impure, although they don’t carry any spiritual impurity. For example, when the Torah speaks of non-Kosher animals such as dogs and horses, the verse called them Tam’eh animals. The Torah clearly doesn’t mean that they carry any sort of Tum’ah, as touching a dog would not render one spiritually impure, but it merely means that those animals are forbidden to eat.

At the end of our Parsha the Torah speaks of the worst sins one can commit—the sins of immorality in its many forms. Worse yet, the pasuk screams of the fact that instead of a being ashamed and embarrassed for committing those horrendous sins, in some places they made them legal and are viewed in a positive manner and a source of pride. That Hashem can’t tolerate at all.

In order to express the severity of those actions, the Torah calls them Tam’eh. Though they don’t contaminate a person, since they are so severe, the Pasuk says that when a society approves of such behaviors and even more so, makes them into a source of pride, Hashem immediately removes His Presence from them, as Hashem doesn’t want to be around such immorality.

May we as a nation learn to stay above those sins and keep Hashem always together with us.

This article was written in cooperation with Shuva Israel