Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Exodus: Chapter 13

Vows fulfilled

An arm for an arm
sight for sight

We will remember
and redeem

Stand in place
and dedicate

Those who open the threshold
the spaces between
and what is carried

[For full chapter, click here
"For with a strong hand, God has taken you out of Egypt"--this refrain is repeated four times, echoing the many references to hands since the dedication of Moses. We must know that there was an expression of power, power dedicated to "taking you out of Egypt"; that this was battle that had to be fought, and that created an indelible connection. This strong hand will be carried "as a sign on your hand" throughout generations, and indicates God's faithful keeping of his promises to the patriarchs.
In the aftermath of the plague of the firstborn, Moses gives over God's message to the children of Israel. The Israelite firstborn, human to animal, are paralleled to the Egyptian. The slaying of the firstborn dedicated the Israelite firstborn to God at the same moment, in a single action. All are taken--the question is the form of the taking.
This introduces the idea of pidyon, redemption: the ability to stand in the place of something else, to transfer. An impure animal's firstborn can be redeemed, replaced with an animal fit for the altar. The freeing of Israel is not by fiat, but by redemption. Being freed from "the house of slavery (beit avadim)" demands "this is the service (avoda) you must do," an exchange, not a loosening.
Other parallels to the plagues on Egypt: the Israelite's must clear leavened bread "from their borders" (gevulha), a dedication that echoes the repeated attacks on Egypt's "borders"; they must make the Exodus a "sign" on their hand, an echo of the many "signs" God put before Pharaoh; they must learn what to "see" and not to "see" must dedicate their eyes--in parallel to the signs done "before the eyes of Pharaoh."
It is both a redemption, and taking an active role. They, like Moses and Aaron, become communicators, dedicating their "mouth".
Still a focus on "leaving" and "coming" and the liminal spaces within. Memories are placed "between the eyes"; those who are dedicated are those who "open the womb" (peter reham) a return to the focus on motherhood that opened the book. This is a birth, and the womb has opened. The firstborn represent the  first steps to nationhood, and opening to communicate "when your son asks."
The chapter closes with the Israelites proving that they too can be faithful to their oaths. Joseph is at last "taken up" from Egypt, indicating that redemption has truly come. There can be reparation,  a "pidyon" of evil]

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