Friday, May 1, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 16

Going out
and coming in

The always
the point
month, day, hour, instant

Where all comes from, 
where it is all going

[For full chapter, click here
In some ways, this chapter is a seamless continuation of the previous one. It continues the theme of scared time, with its pattern of six-to-seven. If the previous chapter focused on the sabbatical year, this chapter focuses on the festivals: the seven days of Passover, the seven weeks leading to Shavuot (lit. ‘weeks,’ Pentecist), the seven days of Succot / Tabernacles. As in the case of the previous chapter, the sacred is now focused on the social / communal element. 
Deuteronomy (lit. "second telling"; in Hebrew Mishne Torah "the review of the Torah") presents Moses' 40 day review of the 40 years of his tumultuous leadership. That narrative voice influences the narrative, and the reprise is significantly different from the various (at times multiple) former presentations. As in the case of the reprise of the laws of the sabbatical year, which here revolve around the protection of the poor. The re-presentation of the festivals continues with this focus, as the inclusiveness of the festival is repeatedly highlighted: "You shall rejoice before God, your Lord, you, your son, your daughter, your slave, your maid, the Levite that is within your gates, and the stranger, the orphan and the widow that are in your midst..."
Another element is added here to the previous presentations of the festivals in the Books of Exodus Leviticus and in Numbers.
It is not simply that the nation is brought together. A swirling vortex motion defines the chapter as a whole. Every festival is here redefined by an inward motion towards "the place that God will choose: in order to celebrate the the outward motion of the Exodus, when He "took you out of Egypt." again, and again, the focus is on the specificity of place, a move "from your gates" towards a central point of gravity--the Temple.
This intensification and specification of place is reflected in an intensification and specification of time: we move from a celebration of the "month" to a focus on the "seven days" to a intense focus on the "day". 
The sanctification of the center--temporal and spatial--allows the movement outwards again. The Passover must be offered only "in the place that God will choose" but it is followed by seven days in which "all your borders" are sanctified. The chapter closes with the command to set up "judges" in each gate, sanctifying the periphery, while knitting together the disparate "tribes"]