Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Leviticus: Chapter 18

Where you come from
Where you go to

To do
To walk
To guard
To protect

The gagging earth

Whom do you approach?

[For full chapter, click hereFrom an address aimed at the priests, we move to an address aimed at "the children of Israel." The concepts of tahara (loosely, "purity") and "coming close" (k'r'v) move from the locus of the Dwelling into family life. The focus here is on prohibited sexual relations. The care regarding sexuality is presented as simultaneously differentiating the "children of Israel" from the "land they came from" and "the land they are approaching"; as well as ensuring a connection to the earth itself: do no "cause the earth to gag."The chapter is set up in a perfect chiastic structure. It opens with the injunction " do not act like the acts of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, neither shall you do  doings like the land of Canaan, where I bring you, shall ye not do;do not walk in their statutes." It continues with a list of incest taboos ("where you come from"), then moves to a list of prohibited act that cilminate with child-sacrifice ("where you go to"). It closes: "For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled; That the land not vomit you also, when you defile it, as it vomited the nations that were before you."Sexuality becomes a complex, enfolded identity, beginning with "acts" ("do not act"); then becoming "a path" ("so not walk in their statues" "you shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein"), then transforming into a "safeguard" (mishmeret), something to be actively guarded. ]

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