Monday, July 14, 2014

Leviticus: Chapter 10

Come bring
and be consumed
the eating fire

the thin line
alien and belong
inside and out

[For full chapter, click here
This chapter continues seamlessly from the last, sharing all its key words: "fire", "closeness/offering" (the root k'r'v), "face" (pnei), "holy" (kodesh). But what a transformation. The hidden menace in the complete integration of kohen and altar comes into the open. The same fire that "came forth" to "consume the ascension offering on the altar" now "comes forth" to "consume them," killing the two sons of Aaron. Another key word enters: "die" temutrun.  It is shocking--and yet feels inevitable. Moses "brought close" (hekriv) Aaron and his sons--the exact same language used for "bringing close" (hekriv) an offering (korban)--a pattern which is emphasized by Moses statement: "this is what God meant when he said I will be sanctified by those closest (bi-krovai) to Me." Aaron's remaining sons become notar, "left over"--the same language used to describe the leftovers of the meal offering.
The fact that the high priest is aligned with  "the entire congregation" in regards to the sin offering takes on a new overtone. The priests stand at the "doorway" because they are the buffer. "Do not die, and on all the congregation He will be wroth."  "Your brothers, the entire congregation of Israel" will "cry over the burning that God has burned." The two sons of Aaron become the embodiment of the sin offering of the nation. The priests are the altar, with all the danger that implies. The fire that was greeted with joy must now be mourned with the same intensity.
We return to the tension between closeness and distance that animated the entire creation of the Dwelling. Aaron's sons run to greet the divine fire with "alien fire," and are consumed by the very fire to which  they respond. Now comes a splitting. "you must differentiate (lehavdil)." The dead and the living; inside and outside; the doorway between.]

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