Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 10

Can you go back 
to the first
Recreate what is gone
Remove the scar tissue
hardening your heart
Soften the stiffness of your neck
and turn around...

[For full chapter, click here
After the digression of listing Israel's various rebellions, Moses continues the story of Sinai and its aftermath, coming to the last of the series of "forty days and forty nights" that he spent with God on the mountain. Again, the passage of year--and the presence of the narrator--are highlighted. Forty years in the future, time wraps, and events separated in time merge into a single continuum. The sin of the spies becomes a side even in the central drama of the Golden Calf. Aaron's death, which was decreed at the same time as Moses' own, is here redefined  as a result of the  Calf, as an after effect of God being "very angry at Aaron, to destroy him." The appointment of Levi is also recontextualized. They become part of the broader ripples of he Calf, an added level of protection for the second Tablets, placed within the Ark.
Once again, Moses role is highlighted, emphasizing his place as speaker. The second set of Tablets is to replace the "first which you [Moses] broke." The chapter emphasizes again and again that these Tablets are to replace "the first"--in a kind of play back reverse in which Moses will "go up" as he once "went down", once again "holding the two tablets in my arms." Yet time truly be reveres, and what was done cannot be undone. These Tablets are not like the first. Rather than being "God's writ," these Tablets are a joint creation. After being the destroyer, Moses must become a creator. His involvement is highlighted by the staccato series of verbs: "and I made...and I sculpted... , and I went up..." Here, the involvement is so intense, that all middlemen are cut out, and it seems that Moses himself created the ark, without the involvement of Bezalel .
The chapter closes with Moses' paean to God,a rising poetic exhalation that moves from the absolute to the specific. From the omnipotence " Lord of lords and God of gods, mighty and awesome," God becomes the God of small things, who "gives justice to the orphan and the widow and loves the stranger..." And through God's care for the stranger, Israel can learn  to love an accept themselves: "therefor love the stranger, for you were strangers in the Land of Egypt."
Moses closes by returning to his denunciation which opened his retelling of the Exodus and Sinai. Israel was not righteous--Israel was "stiffnecked." Not for nothing has Moses retold the story "of that time" (ba-et ha-hi). It has implication for "now" (ata). On "this day" (, ka-yom ha-ze) Moses hopes for a change. Like the Tablets remade, he hopes that Israel will be remade, learning  to "circumcise the seal from your heart, and be no more stiff necked". ]

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