What comes in
when you go out
the redeeming tick of time
This chapter returns to the theme of inner and outer spaces--this time on a more metaphysical level. We no longer speak of coming in and out of the central space that "God will choose" but rather of entering the sacred space of the kahal, the assembly. Inner and outer spaces here become ingroups and outgroups: who is within the sacred congregations, who at the periphery, who outside.
One can be blocked for a myriad reasons: a damaged sexual organ, a problematic sexual background (mamzer, loosely translated as "bastard"), or a problematic national history. The impact of history becomes measurable, calculated by the shadow it casts over the future: Moabites cannot enter the kahal "even after ten generations" ; Egyptians and Edomites can be admitted, but only after three generations of purification...
Once again, physical and metaphorical spaces intertwine. The sacredness of the community is again expressed and reflected when it "goes out" to meet others: the laws of how to keep the army "encampment sacred" (23:15). Again, and again, the boundaries of inside and outside are reiterated: a ritually impure soldier must "go out of the encampment, he cannot come within" (23: 11). on the physical level as well, time is the key to crossing the boundary: "and the sun will set, and he may enter."
What comes out, what is out of its place, must be covered: "you shall cover what comes out of you" (23:14).]