Friday, August 8, 2014

Leviticus: Chapter 20


What is set apart
To be mine

[For full chapter, click here

This chapter reiterates and reinforces the themes of the previous chapters--the prohibition on child sacrifice to the Molekh; the prohibition against divination and augury; the need for sexual morality, which here becomes one and the same as idolatry--both are defined through a single root: z'n't (lewdness, lust), The leitwords remain "holy" "keep" "do."
Yet the reiteration is done within the context of a key concept that connects all the laws taught since that pivotal "eighth day." The chapter closes with a four-time repetition of the root b'd'l (havdala, hivdil, hivdaltem): "division," "separation," "differentiation."  These laws are long term manifestations of that liminal space of the "gate of the Tent of Meeting." They define the inside, the outside and the crevice between.
In becoming separated, you enter the "meeting", becoming "Mine." It is a fraught space. God's "face" can turn against you. And in defining the shared space "inside," the chapter also introduces the idea of collective responsibility. If in the previous chapter, we are commanded to "love your friend as yourself" here, we become responsible for another's sin: if someone does not stop a sacrifice to the Molekh, he too is punished. The separation creates links.
 The space of belonging also spreads outward, to the liminal doorway, embracing the "alien who sojourns in Israel."]

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