Thursday, November 5, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 22

Who is lost
who is found
what you see 
what you don't see
and what is ignored

[For full chapter, click here
If the previous chapter closed with the elders swearing that their "eyes did not see," this chapter ironically opens with the commend "don't see"(22:1).  
Yet as in the previous case, the command not to see is reversed to actually demand to take notice: "Do not see your brother's ox or sheep wandering, and ignore them--you must bring them back to your brother." Once again, there is a demand to take responsibility for "blood," this time on an individual level: "do not bring blood into your home."
The chapter moves on in a point-counterpoint between taking responsibility for what is "found" (a key root, m'z'a) and repeated injunctions against mixing elements that should remain distinct--whether it is plowing with "an ox and a donkey"; planting a mixed vineyard; weaving together "linen and wool"; or blending gender distinctions.  The responsibility for another's property seems to be part of a wider framework of establishing boundaries, of non-adulteration.
Both themes comes together in the final sequence of of laws, which deal with slander, seduction,  rape and literal adultery. Each law is introduced with the question of what is "found" in the damsel, or if the damsel is "found" by her assaulter. Here, the young girl becomes an extension of the property laws that introduce the chapter. What happens to her is meaningful only in so far as it impacts a man's property rights--slander becomes a manner of monetary exchange between the father and the husband;  a rapist is punished only in so far as he damages "his neighbor's wife." The girl's voice has impact only in its silence--if she is raped within the city, she is held to blame for "not screaming"; only if she is assaulted in a field does "she not have a sin of death" because her voice cannot be heard.  
Some things are not to be noticed. ]

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