Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Leviticus: Chapter 13


Be seen

Make manifest

When did flesh

become you?

[For full chapter, click here
The world of the divine  resonates throughout the human encampment, as the chapter continues to discuss the theme of human tumah and tahara (loosely translated as ritual purity and impurity) with the laws of tzaraat (a skin disfigurement sometimes identified as leprosy). 
The key word is "seeing" and "eyes"--the root r'a'a (roe, mar'e, yirah-e) repeats over twenty times. This is a chapter of stripping away, removing what is covered, exposing rot. 
The strange correlation between the human body and the Dwelling persists. We return to the primal language that opened the Book of Leviticus: "Adam," human, earth-creature, rather than the more conman "man"; followed by "nefesh," soul--mirroring the initial description of the Temple service. There is a focus on clothing--the defining characteristic of the priest. Interwoven is also the motif of  fire and burning--an echo of the death of Nadav and Avihu "on the eighth day."  Like the Dwelling, the skin lesion is defined through a seven day process of enclosure. But in contrast to the dedication of the Mishkan--and the purification of a woman after birth-- here, there is no concluding "eighth day", no transition between inside and out, no death and rebirth. Instead there is a trapping within a system of repeated cycles of sevens.
As the chapter enumerates the various ways of diagnosing the skin lesion, there is a continous interplay between the person and the flesh-disease. In the opening section, the subject is "adam"--the person; in the second section, the subject is "tzarrat" --the disease itself. In the closing, the person is defined by the disease. He is a metzorah, an embodiment of tzarrat. It is no longer the lesion that is "tameh--impure" but he. The person has becomes his flesh]

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