“Anything that touches these shall become holy.” (Lev 6:11)
“Anything that touches its flesh shall become holy…” (Lev 6:17)
I guess Leviticus teaches us that you can catch cooties from something. Or someone. In Leviticus, there are two ways of being, two statuses: Holy or not. Tamei or tahor – clean or unclean. You’re either on your way to being one or the other, or just arrived at being one or other. So you can get holy from touching something that’s holy, or make something that is holy, unholy if you’re in that status and come into contact with something that …. Oy.
It’s easier to accept the idea that you can sully something that’s pure by bringing it into direct contact with what’s unclean. Think about the practice of kashrut, keeping kosher. For those who follow these guidelines, using that meat knife to cut some cheese renders it unfit for meat again. You can’t just wash it away, but perhaps there are some rituals you can perform to bring it to its former state. Or, if you’re a vegetarian, dropping a beef bone into the soup, even if you fish it right back out again, renders the soup unacceptable.
But the idea of transferring holiness is a more remarkable transformation. You can “catch” holiness. Holy vessels can make other vessels holy. Can holy people make other people holy?
When you associate with people whose outlook on life whose actions and speech find the holiness in life, then you will tend to look for and find the same holiness, the joy and light. It’s much like when our parents told us to hang out with the “nice” kids, hoping it would rub off, and hanging with the troublemakers would get us into trouble.
This section of Leviticus is filled with eye-glazing instructions and details about the kinds of offerings brought, which are to be eaten, which can only be eaten by Aaron and his sons, which can’t be eaten at all, and more. But hiding in the text is the idea that holiness can be transferred, not just impurity. You can change your status, your outlook, your way of engaging the world by what surrounds you, what touches you. The power of touch. Simple touch can convey a whole new way of being. This isn’t metaphorical; it’s actual, real touch.
Touch can elevate, heal, and warm, holy. Touch can be cruel, painful, debasing, and wholly unholy.
Consider the power of touch in your world. Be the holy that gets transmitted, and be near the holy in the world.