Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Numbers: Chapter 3

Before my face
Face to face

In your place


[For full chapter, click hereWe move on to the last element of the encampment: the Levites, who are not "counted" among the Children of Israel, yet move within them.
The chapter opens by focusing on the ultimate expression of Levi: "the generations" of Aaron and Moses, the tribe's greatest sons. Yet it sounds an ominous note: "Nadav and Avihu died in the presence of (li-pnei) God when they brought close (k'r'b) alien fire." Their two younger brothers are left to stand in their place,  and  "minister in the presence (al pnei) Aaron their father." Closeness is presented as dangerous. Exchange implies lost, the end of the "firstborn" hope.
This opening section is a myse-en-abym of the chapter as a whole, which revolves around the "bringing close" (k'r'v) of the Levites. The Levites stand in place of the Israelite firstborns, and must be exchanged, one by one. The firstborns are in turn consecrated by death. Spared in Egypt, they  "are Mine"--existentially linked to God in a bond that is transferred to the Levites, who become "Mine."
Like Moses in the Book of Exodus, the Levites become the transitional waters, the space between inside and out. Doubly given (netunim, netunim) they belong to God, serve Aaron, and yet stand in place of the Israelite "openers of the womb."
They are all, and nobody's.  Cyphers of exchange. Mediums of intimacy.]

No comments:

Post a Comment