Saturday, March 14, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 13

Without and within 
the intimate, the exotic 
the known and unknown 
a fire between

[For full chapter, click here
Having established that relationship is based on specificity and loyalty, this chapter turns to the possible threats to loyalty: the possible seductions away from God. The Chosen Land is a land on edge, and the relationship to God also remains on edge, full of tensions, tests, and uncertainty. 
The chapter is built of three parallels sections,each presenting a different possible seduction away from God, moving from the most intimate outward. The first danger is a false prophet or visionary who "dreams a dream"; the second is the seductions of close family "your brother, your son, your daughter, the wife of your bosom";  the final is peer pressure, as a whole city is "drawn away... to serve other gods." The sections are united by refrains, one highlighting closeness, the other distance: "go after other gods, which you have not known" vs. "burn out the evil from your midst (k'r'v, the root for closeness)."
The temptation away from God comes from within, from your brother, from your family, from your mind. Yet the desire is for distance, for what is far, exotic, a dream.
God is the God of the familiar, the "God of your fathers," who has proved Himself in "rescuing you from Egypt and redeeming you from the house of slavery." What He demands is the deepest intimacy, a ruthless loyalty that trumps all other connections: 
"After God your Lord you shall walk,  and Him shall ye fear, and His commandments shall you keep, and unto His voice shall you hearken, and Him shall you serve, and unto Him shall you cleave [d'v'k--the verb that usually refers to marriage "udavak be-ishto"--and he shall cleave to his wife".

Monday, March 2, 2015

Deuteronomy 12: In Writing

A springing hind
leap through knoll and valley
fleet-footed deer,
too dear to be possessed

a wandering river
wrap every winding,
chattering at the bend
burbling at every breast

liquid web that dissipates
or pools quiet and cold
in stony shadows
encircled and taken, to be made

your ascension, your sacrifice
your tithe, your bread
what rises from your hand
your promise, your dread
your gift, your firstborn,
your blood of red

bound and gathered
it bleeds at the edge
fully there.

Deuteronomy: Chapter 12

Whose eyes do you follow
now that you see?

What is chosen
never quite yours
bound to Here.

Let desire roam 
fleeting as water 
over the endless Theres

Only the consecrated is bound and gathered.

[For full chapter, click here
In the previous chapter, the Promised Land was "the land that God watches from the beginning of the year until the year's close. Now the relationship between God and Land becomes more specific: there will be "a place that God chooses." The key word of the chapter is "place" (makom) and "there" (shama): "to there you will bring it" "you shall come there" you shall ascend there." 
As in the case of the covenant with Israel, the choice of a "there" redefines the relationship to the infinity of other "theres." Relationship is built of specificity and commitment. Even when speaking of the relationship to God Himself, it in not about qualitative difference, but rather about the exclusion of other options:"You shall destroy  their altars, and break their sacred stones, and burn their wooden images... you shall not so to God your Lord, but you shall seek the place that God your Lord chooses from all your tribes, to dwell his name, and you shall go there." 
As in the case covenant, one must "guard" against non-monogamy. The choice of a place must exclude other places from worship. No longer will it be permissible to worship "whereever is right in your eyes";  rather, Israel must to "what is good and right in the eyes of God."
Here, however, a place is set aside for the non-specific, for the non-sacred. The relationship to place becomes two-tiered. While sacrifices can only be offered in the "place that is chosen," meat can be eaten anywhere. There is a space for unfettered human desire outside of relationship to God: "as your soul craves, you may slaughter and eat flesh in all your gates." The key is not to concentrate this desire: "the pure and impure may eat it together, only you shall not eat the blood; you shall pour it on the earth like water." 
Eating non-sacred meat is repeatedly compared to eating the flesh of wild animals--"like a gazelle and  a hind." Non-consecrated meat remains undomesticated; its "blood  which is its soul/life spirit" still roaming free "like water on the earth." In the many "theres", the "desire of your soul/ life-spirit" can roam, so long as it does not attempt absolute possession of another's "soul / life force". 
It is only absolute, "chosen" place,  where the blood "life-force" can be "offered" to God, and "purged" on the altar.
The sacred and non-scared delimit each other, in an anophara of "only" rak. The non-sacred must remain untrammeled and free; the sacred is bound and absolute. ]