Positive Mitzvah Thirty-One

Removng the Unclean

Requires Beit HaMikdash

BaMidbar 5:2 Command the Benei Yisrael that they shall expel from the camp everyone with tzaraat, everyone who has had a zav-emission, and everyone contaminated by a human corpse.

We are commanded to put out unclean person from the camp. The word "camp" here means the Camp of the Divine Presence,1, the equivalent of which in later generations was the Sanctuary Court [comprising the Court of the Yisraelim, the Court of the Kohanim, etc.]. The Sifre says: "That they put out of the camp [every leper, etc.], this is an admonition to unclean persons not to enter the Sanctuary in a state of uncleanness."

The various zones of sanctity within the Holy Land and the prohibitive degrees of uncleanness observed in relation to them are indicated in the Mishnah thus:

'The walled cities [of the Land of Yisrael] are still holier, for lepers must be sent out of them... The Temple Mount is still holier, for no man or woman that has a flux, no menstruant, and no woman after childbirth may enter it. The Rampart is still holier, for no idolater and none that has contracted uncleanness from a corpse may enter it. The Court of the Women is still holier, for none may enter it on the day of his immersion [because of uncleanness], although he would not thereby become liable for a Sin-offering. The Court of the Yisraelim is still holier, for none whose atonement is yet incomplete may enter it, and one who did would thereby become liable for a Sin-offering' (Kel. 1, 7, 8)

Maimonides observes:

'The object of the Sanctuary was to create in the hearts of those who enter it certain feelings of awe and reverence...But when we continually see an object, however sublime it may be, our regard for that object will be lessened, and the impression we have received from it will be weakened...For this reason the unclean were not allowed to enter the Temple, although there are so many kinds of uncleanness that [at any given time] only a few people are clean' (Moreh Nevuchim 3, 47)

1. The sacred city of Yerushalayim was divided into three zones: a) the zone extending from the walls of the city to the Temple Mount was known as the Camp of the Yisraelim; b) that extending from the Temple Mount to the Gates of Nikanor was known as the Camp of the Leviim, and c) the zone lying within these gates, including the Court of the Yisraelim, the Court of the Kohanim, the space between the Altar and the Porch, the Sanctuary, and the Holy of Holies, was known as the Camp of the Divine Presence.