The Physical and the Spiritual

By Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David (Greg Killian)



In this study I would like to examine the relationship of the physical to the spiritual. I would like to address the question: Why did HaShem give us physical bodies with various physiological responses?


In Gan Eden, HaShem gave physicality to Adam. With this physicality he was supposed to tend the garden. What does it mean ‘to tend the garden’?


We find throughout the Torah that HaShem expected men to physically ‘do’ things. Whether it was Adam tending the garden or Moshe ‘speaking’ to the rock, men were expected to perform physical acts in their service of HaShem. Thus we see that HaShem expects men to act physically. In fact, the Torah never records any spiritual act independent of a physical act. This has some rather profound implications.


Consider the events of Sinai. Chazal, our Sages, have said that the Children of Israel entered into a covenant with HaShem at mount Sinai. As preparation for the ‘signing’ of the covenant, Chazal teach that the Children of Israel did three physical things as required by HaShem:


K'rithoth 9a Rabbi says: ‘As ye’ means as your forefathers: As your forefathers entered into the covenant only by circumcision, immersion and the sprinkling of the blood,[1] so shall they enter the Covenant only by circumcision, immersion and the sprinkling of the blood.


Rashi on Shemot (Exodus) 24:6: in the basins Two basins, one for half the blood of the burnt offering and one for half the blood of the peace offering, [in order] to sprinkle them on the people. From here our Sages learned that our ancestors entered the covenant with circumcision, immersion [in a mikvah], and the sprinkling of the blood [of the sacrifice on the altar], for there is no sprinkling [of blood on a person] without immersion [preceding it].[2]


1. They were ALL circumcised.


Shemot (Exodus) 12:43 And HaShem said unto Moshe and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: 44  But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof. 45  A foreigner and an hired servant shall not eat thereof. 46  In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof. 47  All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48  And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to HaShem, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof. 49  One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you. 50  Thus did all the children of Israel; as HaShem commanded Moshe and Aaron, so did they.


2. They were all immersed in the mikveh (baptized):


Shemot (Exodus) 19:9 And HaShem said unto Moses, Lo, I come unto thee in a thick cloud, that the people may hear when I speak with thee, and believe thee for ever. And Moses told the words of the people unto HaShem. 10 And HaShem said unto Moses, Go unto the people, and sanctify them to day and to morrow, and let them wash their clothes, 11 And be ready against the third day: for the third day HaShem will come down in the sight of all the people upon mount Sinai.


If from “Go to the people, and have them sanctify today and tomorrow, and wash their clothes”, if immersion is needed where washing clothes is not needed (such as a man Tamei from a seminal emission), all the more so where clothes must be washed! Rejection: Perhaps they washed their clothes just for cleanliness! Answer: “Moshe took the blood and threw it on the people”[3]), and we know, every throwing of blood requires immersion first!


K'rithoth 9a The Master said: ‘As your forefathers entered into the Covenant only etc.’. It is right concerning circumcision, for it is written, For all the people that came out were circumcised,[4] alternatively. And when I passed by thee, and saw thee wallowing in thy blood, I said unto thee: In thy blood, live, etc.;[5] as to the sprinkling of the blood, it is mentioned in the text, And he sent the young men of the children of Israel [who offered burnt-offerings and sacrificed peace offerings];[6] but whence do we know the immersion? — It is written, And Moshe took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people,[7] and there can be no sprinkling without immersion.[8]


3. They all swore to keep the commands of the Torah:


Shemot (Exodus) 24:7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that HaShem hath said will we do, and be obedient.


Thus we see that entrance into the covenant is as Chazal[9] teach that one must be circumcised, one must be immersed in the mikveh, and one must solemnly swear before the Bet Din (Jewish court) that they will obey the Torah.


Lets look a little deeper at the first requirement that one must be circumcised. HaShem elaborates that no non-Jew (Gentiles) can partake of the Passover except he be physically circumcised:


Shemot (Exodus) 12:43 And HaShem said unto Moses and Aaron, This is the ordinance of the passover: There shall no stranger eat thereof: 44 But every man’s servant that is bought for money, when thou hast circumcised him, then shall he eat thereof.


This has some rather profound implications for Christians who are “messianics”. These Christians claim to be “returning to their Jewish roots” by taking on Jewish trappings whilst maintaining Christian theology, for the most part. These Christians see themselves as able to celebrate the Passover without being circumcised. Now, the above verse shows that Gentile messianics or Christians can have a seder as long as they do NOT eat the Passover lamb! Since the destruction of the Temple, the Passover lamb has had a substitute: The Afikomen, the matza taken after the meal. Shemot (Exodus) 12:43-44 shows that non-Jews may NOT partake of the Afikomen which is a substitute for the Passover lamb. Let me restate this: Christians and messianics who have not been circumcised according to Torah law may NOT eat the Afikomen and they may NOT eat the Passover lamb!


This poses a few difficulties for the Christians and messianics because they see the Passover lamb, and by substitution the Afikomen, as representing Christ (Mashiach):


I Corinthians 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us: 8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.


This poses a conundrum for the Christian and the messianic: They see themselves as a part of Mashiach whilst at the same time being forbidden from partaking in the Mashiach at the Passover seder.


Since Christians and messianics have largely ignored the Torah, and are without good Jewish teachers, they blindly go on violating Torah by eating the Afikomen as though they have a right to do so. Nothing could be further from the truth!


Torah, and Chazal, teach that any Gentile, whether he be a Christian, a messianic, or some other stranger, MUST be circumcised, according to Jewish law, to partake of the Passover lamb and the Afikomen. Anyone who partake without circumcision has disobeyed the explicit command of HaShem.


Christians and messianics typically try to get around this Torah requirement by claiming that they have “circumcised hearts”:


Yeremyahu (Jeremiah) 4:3 For thus saith HaShem to the men of Judah and Jerusalem, Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to HaShem, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: lest my fury come forth like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.


Those Gentiles, whether they are Christians, messianics, or whatever, who say they have circumcised their hearts have failed to note that the circumcision of the heart applies only to Jews and NOT to Gentiles. It is also worth noting that circumcision of the heart is an act of HaShem that will only happen to Jews who obey the commands of the covenant given at Mt. Sinai:


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither HaShem thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto HaShem thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then HaShem thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither HaShem thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine be driven out unto the outmost parts of heaven, from thence will HaShem thy God gather thee, and from thence will he fetch thee: 5 And HaShem thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and he will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. 6 And HaShem thy God will circumcise thine heart, and the heart of thy seed, to love HaShem thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, that thou mayest live. 7 And HaShem thy God will put all these curses upon thine enemies, and on them that hate thee, which persecuted thee. 8 And thou shalt return and obey the voice of HaShem, and do all his commandments which I command thee this day.


Thus we understand that circumcision of the heart is a spiritual act that follows physical circumcision coupled with faithful obedience to the commands of Torah. There can be no “circumcision of the heart”, a spiritual act, without physical circumcision. It is not one or the other, it is both! One must be physically circumcised, then the circumcision of the heart will be performed by HaShem on those who are faithful to His Torah.


This principle will be found throughout the Torah:


We manipulate the spiritual by acting on the physical.


To illustrate this concept, let me ask: How do I move a spiritual soul from point A to point B? The answer is that I physically move the physical body and then I have successfully moved the spiritual soul. I must manipulate the physical to have an effect on the spiritual.


A Covenant People


At Sinai, HaShem entered into a covenant with His People, the Israelites and converts who came out of Egypt. The Jews are therefore the covenant people as we see in Shemot 19:


Shemot (Exodus) 19:1 In the third month, when the children of Israel were gone forth out of the land of Egypt, the same day came they into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 For they were departed from Rephidim, and were come to the desert of Sinai, and had pitched in the wilderness; and there Israel camped before the mount. 3 And Moses went up unto God, and HaShem called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; 4 Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. 5 Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: 6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel. 7 And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which HaShem commanded him. 8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that HaShem hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto HaShem.


In order to be a part of this covenant, the Bnei Israel had to be circumcised, they had to immerse, and they had to agree to obey all the words of the Torah. Now, this covenant that the Bnei Israel entered was a covenant of betrothal, of marriage:


Hosea 2:14-20 “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert (at Sinai) and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth, as in the day she came up out of Egypt. “In that day,” declares HaShem, “you will call me ‘my husband’; you will no longer call me ‘my master.’ I will remove the names of the Baals from her lips; no longer will their names be invoked. In that day I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air and the creatures that move along the ground. Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety. I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. I will betroth you in faithfulness, and you will acknowledge HaShem.


Yeremyahu (Jeremiah) 31:31-34 “The time is coming,” declares HaShem, “when I will make a renewed covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband (betrothed) to them,” declares HaShem. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares HaShem. “I will put my Torah in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know HaShem,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares HaShem. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’


Yechezkel (Ezekiel) 16:6 And when I passed by thee, and saw thee polluted in thine own blood, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live; yea, I said unto thee when thou wast in thy blood, Live. 7 I have caused thee to multiply as the bud of the field, and thou hast increased and waxen great, and thou art come to excellent ornaments: thy breasts are fashioned, and thine hair is grown, whereas thou wast naked and bare. 8 Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord HaShem, and thou becamest mine. 9 Then washed I thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. 10 I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers’ skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk. 11 I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thy hands, and a chain on thy neck. 12 And I put a jewel on thy forehead, and earrings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head. 13 Thus wast thou decked with gold and silver; and thy raiment was of fine linen, and silk, and broidered work; thou didst eat fine flour, and honey, and oil: and thou wast exceeding beautiful, and thou didst prosper into a kingdom.


In many Sephardic congregations, prior to the Torah reading, on the first day of Shavuot, a Ketubah le-Shavuot (marriage certificate for Hag Shavuot) is read, as a symbolic betrothal of HaShem and His people Israel. There are various versions of such piyutim, nearly all similar in terminology to the traditional tenaim (premarital document specifying the conditions agreed upon between the two parties) or the Ketubah (certificate the bridegroom presents to the bride at the wedding ceremony). These are hymns based on the verses in Hosea 2:14-20 Jeremiah 31:31-34.


The sixth day of the week (Friday), the sixth of Sivan, the day appointed by the Lord for the revelation of the Torah to His beloved people. ... The Invisible One came forth from Sinai, shone from Seir and appeared from Mount Paran unto all the kings of the earth, in the year 2448 since the creation of the world, the era by which we are accustomed to reckon in this land whose foundations were upheld by God, as it is written: “For he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.” (Psalms 24:2).


The bridegroom (God), Ruler of Rulers, Prince of princes, Distinguished among the select, Whose mouth is pleasing and all of Whom is delightful, said unto the pious, lovely and virtuous maiden (the House of Israel) who won His favor above all women, who is as beautiful as the moon, radiant as the sun, awesome as bannered hosts: Many days wilt thou be Mine and I will be thy Redeemer. Behold, I have sent thee golden precepts through the lawgiver Jekuthiel (Moses). Be thou My mate according to the law of Moses and Israel, and I will honor, support, and maintain thee and be thy shelter and refuge in everlasting mercy. And I will set aside for thee, in lieu of thy virginal faithfulness, the life-giving Torah by which thou and thy children will live in health and tranquility. This bride (Israel) consented and became His spouse. Thus an eternal covenant, binding them forever, was established between them. The Bridegroom then agreed to add to the above all future expositions of Scripture, including Sifra, Sifre, Aggadah, and Tosefta. He established the primacy of the 248 positive commandments which are incumbent upon all...and added to them the 365 negative commandments. The dowry that this bride brought from the house of her father consists of an understanding heart that understands, ears that hearken, and eyes that see. Thus the sum total of the contract and the dowry, with the addition of the positive and negative commandments, amounts to the following: Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: “Revere God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The Bridegroom, desiring to confer privileges upon His people Israel and to transmit these valuable assets to them, took upon Himself the responsibility of this marriage contract, to be paid from the best portions of His property...


All these conditions are valid and established forever and ever. The Bridegroom has given His oath to carry them out in favor of His people and to enable those that love Him to inherit substance. Thus the Lord has given His oath. The Bridegroom has followed the legal formality of symbolic delivery of this document, which is bigger than the earth and broader than the seas. Everything, then, is firm, clear, and established...

I invoke heaven and earth as reliable witnesses.


May the Bridegroom rejoice with the bride whom He has taken as His lot and may the bride rejoice with the Husband of her youth while uttering words of praise.[10]


Thus we see that HaShem entered into a covenant of marriage with the Bnei Israel at Sinai. This has some very profound implications for Christians and messianics who claim to be a part of the bride.


To be the bride one must have entered into the marriage covenant by circumcision, immersion, and by agreeing, before the Bet Din, to obey the Torah. If one did not do these three physical things, then one does not enter the marriage covenant! This we can see in our own physical world where marriage involves getting a marriage license and a blood test. It involves a wedding with much preparation, and finally it involves swearing before witnesses that you will fulfill your marital responsibilities. If this is true in our law, how much more so must it be true in HaShem’s law?


Now, if one has ‘signed’ the covenant at Sinai, he receives commands that are SIGNS of that covenant. These are special commands that indicate our special status as the betrothed of HaShem. These signs are:


Shemot (Exodus) 31:13-17 Speak thou also unto the children of Israel, saying, Verily my sabbaths ye shall keep: for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations; that ye may know that I am HaShem that doth sanctify you. 14 Ye shall keep the sabbath therefore; for it is holy unto you: every one that defileth it shall surely be put to death: for whosoever doeth any work therein, that soul shall be cut off from among his people. 15 Six days may work be done; but in the seventh is the sabbath of rest, holy to HaShem: whosoever doeth any work in the sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. 16 Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. 17 It is a sign between me and the children of Israel for ever: for in six days HaShem made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed.


Shabbat, Sabbath, is the firstsign’ of the covenant between Israel and HaShem. The Christian and the messianic may NOT keep the Sabbath! They must convert and become a part of Israel before they may enjoy the sign of the marriage covenant. If they keep the Shabbat without formally, and physically, entering the covenant as Israel did, then they are adulterers who are worthy of death. One who partakes of the marriage privileges without signing the covenant is an adulterer.


Sanhedrin 58b Resh Lakish also said: A Gentile who keeps a day of rest, deserves death, for it is written, And a day and a night they shall not rest, and a master has said: Their prohibition is their death sentence.


The next ‘sign‘ of the covenant is:


Devarim (Deuteronomy) 6:4 Hear, O Israel: HaShem our God is one HaShem: 5 And thou shalt love HaShem thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. 6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: 7 And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.


Tefillin are the second sign of the covenant. I have written extensively on this sign in my study titled: Tefillin.


The next ‘sign’ of the covenant is:


Bereshit (Genesis) 17:9 And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. 11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a sign of the covenant betwixt me and you.


Mila, circumcision, is the third sign of the covenant.


Thus we can see that three things are reserved to the members of the covenant:


  1. Shabbat (Sabbath)
  2. Tefillin
  3. Mila (circumcision)


These three signs have additional ramifications. Shabbat is a Pars Pro Toto[11] argument for all of the moedim, the festivals. Thus if a non-Jew is forbidden from celebrating Shabbat, then he is also forbidden from celebrating the festivals, as Jews celebrate, which are also called Shabbaton. Any Gentile who has not undergone conversion, and therefore entered the covenant, is forbidden from partaking in the benefits of the covenant. He may not be circumcised, he may not celebrate the Shabbats, and he may not don tefillin. To do any of these things would be tantamount to adultery, for the Gentile who does such things has intruded on a marriage relationship.


There is no spiritual way to enter the covenant. To enter the marriage covenant with HaShem, man must do these three physical things:


  1. Mila (circumcision)
  2. Immersion in a mikveh
  3. Front the Bet Din (Jewish court) and sware to obey the Torah.


One can NOT say that he is part of the covenant without physically entering the covenant in the same way that the Bnei Israel entered this marriage covenant. They entered physically, even as all Gentiles must enter physically.




This study was written by

Rabbi Dr. Hillel ben David

(Greg Killian).

Comments may be submitted to:


Rabbi Dr. Greg Killian

4544 Highline Drive SE

Olympia, WA 98501


Internet address: gkilli@aol.com

Web page: http://www.betemunah.org/


(360) 918-2905


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[1] I.e., the offering of sacrifices, cf. Shemot (Exodus) 24:5ff.

[2] From Yevamot 46b, K'rithoth 9b

[3] Shemot (Exodus) 24:8

[4] Yehoshua (Joshua) 5:5

[5] Yehezechel (Ezekiel) 16:6. According to the supposition of the Zohar to Vayokra (Leviticus) 22:27 this passage refers to the blood of circumcision.

[6] Shemot (Exodus) 24:5

[7] Ibid.8  v.8

[8] The parallel text in Yeb. 46b reads: ‘and there is a tradition that there is no sprinkling . . .’

[9] Our Sages

[10] By Israel Najara; Translated by Solomon Feffer

[11] Pars pro totoLatin for "a part (taken) for the whole", is a figure of speech where the name of a portion of an object or concept represents the entire object or concept.