Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 17

move out
and come in
the perfect circle
that creates its own continuation

[For full chapter, click here
This chapter continues the vortex inward movement that defined the previous chapter. If the previous chapter ended with the establishment of local courts--a move outward from center to periphery--this chapter moves back in, as the local courts stream into "the place that God will choose" for consultation. 

The creation of a central core and outer liminal "gates" allows the internal space to begin to function a a single entity. One of the key words of this chapter is k'r'v (close, within): once we have drawn the radii connecting the center and the outer limits, we become aware for what is enclosed "within." The nation begins to function as a single entity:"Burn out the evil from within you" is transformed into  "a burn out the evil from Israel." 

With the establishment of a national entity, the movement to the center in physical space is echoed in the human realm: the centralization of authority through the appointment of a king:"Appoint a king over yourselves, whom God will choose" (17:15). The social center, like the physical center, is not yet defined. It awaits the appointment of God's choice.
The appointment of the king introduces the vortex-like circularity into the very structure of the book itself. Deuteronomy here provides for its own self-replication: "and when he sits on his throne, he shall write this mishne torah [review of the Law--another name for Deuteronomy] in a book before the priests and Levites, and it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he will learn to fear God, and keep all  the words of this Torah, to do all these laws" (17:18-19). The king appointed through this book will assure the continuation of the book. ]

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