Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Leviticus: Chapter 24

Always, continuously

Who is left outside?
Held within the guarding 

What can be restored,

And what cannot

[For full chapter, click here
The chapter opens by continuing the focus on time, this time intertwining it with space. From sanctified moments, we move to the service in the Tent of Meeting that must be "continuous/ eternal" (tamid). The pointillist present tense becomes the unchanging perfect: the eternal flame; the always-present shewbread.
Yet this focus on the serene perfection is abruptly broken by the story of the "son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian man," who "blasphemed the Name and cursed." The specific trigger is left purposely ambiguous. The key word is "go out" (ve-yetze). This book has revolved around places within and without. Until now, we have focused on the high price payed by those within, who cannot "go out." Now we turn to the toll on those who are "outside" (bahutz) and find no place "within the children of Israel." The "guardianship (mishmeret) of God's decrees" becomes here a prison (mishmeret), from which the blasphemer is once again "taken out" (va-yotziu'hu) to death.
The chapter closes by setting up to levels of reality--the redeemable and nonredeemable. "whoever curses his god shall bear his sin; but whoever curses God's name shall surly die" " "he who smites the soul (nefesh) of a person, shall surly die. And whoever smites the soul of an animal shall pay it, a soul for a soul." The eternal space that opens the chapter creates an unbreakable, crushing framework in which forgiveness is not possible. ]

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