The Clean and the Unclean

“…Our age exhibits two radically opposite attitudes toward morality – one which would prohibit most pleasurable experiences on the theory that they contaminate and defile. The other would unbind all controls and open wide the gate for all unrestrained satisfaction of human tastes and desires. The Biblical faith supports neither of these extremes.”

On April 21, 1963, Rabbi Olan spoke about the biblical mandates to avoid evil (“the unclean”) and pursue the good (those things that God has declared to be clean) as a way of honoring God and owning a sense of being set apart as a holy people. For some this has led to careful observance of food laws and religious rituals. Others have seen this issue as a larger call to moral living.

“The Prophets called upon men to be clean, to wash themselves, but they were not speaking of physical cleanliness. They were speaking of ‘clean hands and a pure heart.'”

As you might expect, Rabbi Olan sides with the prophets. How can one truly fulfill God’s moral law and not challenge racism and injustice? Does it really please God for us to obsess over our dietary choices while our neighbors’ children go bed hungry… again?

Follow this link to read the sermon text.
Follow this link to listen to the sermon recording.
Follow this link to read and listen at the same time.

(Raabi Olan quotes Leviticus 20 and Exodus 19:6.)


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