Jodi Magness, in her excellent new book Stone and Dung, Oil and Spit: Jewish Daily Life in the Time of Jesus, and relying more than most upon Qumran’s evidence, examines a number of fascinating elements of Jewish daily life at the time of Jesus (though Jesus was from the Galilee): (1) Purifying the Body and Hands; (2) Creeping and Swarming Creatures, Locusts, Fish, Dogs, Chickens, and Pigs; (3) Household Vessels: Pottery, Oil Lamps, Glass, Stone, and Dung; (4) Dining Customs and Communal Meals; (5) Sabbath Observance and Fasting; (6) Coins; (7) Clothing and Tzitzit; (8) Oil and Spit; (9) Toilets and Toilet Habits; (10) Tombs and Burial Customs. Every pastor and professor needs something that sketches the basics of daily life, and this is now the place to begin.
Jews were concerned with purity, and anyone who steps accidentally into the Bible not knowing that concept can be surprised how often it appears. When polluted, which does not necessarily mean sin, Jews had to wash and wait, usually until sundown (at which time they were clean). To the right is a mikveh (purifying pool) from Chorazim, and below is one from Qumran. 700 mikvaot (=plural immersion pools) have been found in the Land of Israel, and most of them are from the 1st Century. Steps into them permitted a person to walk down into the immersion pool.A monster mikveh in 1st Century Jerusalem was called the Pool of Siloam, and is just north of the current walls in Jerusalem. There is no mikveh found at Capernaum, but that’s almost certainly because they could wash in the Sea of Galilee.
But Jews also washed hands before meals in a purification manner. Water for this action could come from a stream or lake, but more often was from the mikveh or from a cistern or in special, smaller basins or mikvaot for hands.
Jodi Magness thinks Jesus’ supposed declaring of all foods clean pertains not to all kinds of food but to the fact that Jesus did not think food had to be eaten in a state of priestly purity.
There is clear evidence that later rabbis believed that touching a Torah scroll defiled a person but Magness isn’t confident we can see such a belief at Qumran.