It seems that there are very few who follow religion to the letter and maybe that’s either the point or just a good thing. I certainly wouldn’t like today’s society if we all followed a literal translation of the Torah, be it an ‘Eye for an Eye’ or that you’re not meant to touch someone who is unclean. It would be a very frustrating way to live.
The thing about not touching someone who is unclean applies to both men and women and has to do with menstruation and shedding ones seed (male ejaculation). You’re not meant to touch a woman for seven days after she has menstruated which makes daily work a hard task. Just think about the last time you touched a woman in any way (hug, handshake, handing them something) and the chances of them having menstruated in the last seven days. Further, a male who has ejaculated in the last day is considered unclean, making touching most men probably a risky business. The punishment for this is that you are then unclean, presumably a sinner untill your next prayer when you are cleansed.
The Samaritans, the kind loving guys who appear in the parable of the good Samaritan, still live in Israel although there are only about 700 of them. They hold very strict literalist views on cleanliness and the female menstruation cycle. For seven days each month the females of the household have what is endearingly referred to as a ‘holiday from housework’. They have their own room with tv and refrigerator, they are not allowed really to interact with the men of the house except to help them prepare meals. This brings up another point actually, that men aren’t allowed to sit or touch anything that an unclean person has touched. So if the women of the Samaritans touch something, the men are not allowed to touch it. This is why they are not allowed to come out of their room and the men have to do everything.
What really intrigues me here, other than the fact that they have these bizarre rituals, is that the Samaritans of today put emphasis on this being a holiday for the women. It isn’t repression, even if it was at some point. It is now liberation.
The most powerful part of the story of the good Samaritan is that the Samaritan helps a Judean and the two hated each other. It tells us that even if you hate your neighbour for one thing, if he’s hurt and alone, you should help. The Samaritans have their own Bible and in fact their own Ten Commandments with just one difference: one of the commandments is to build an altar on Mount Garizim. It’s facinating to think that if we were all Samaritans then instead of having hundreds of people at the Wailing Wall every day you’d have hundreds of people not so far away at Mount Garizim. Every Passover the head male of each household of the Samaritans sacrifices a goat. Again, if we were all Samaritans then there would, every Passover, be hundreds maybe thousands of goat sacrifices but at Mount Garizim.
There’s a facinating thing about Jewish people and sacrifice which I will talk about in more depth next post.