Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 30

Sometimes, you can go back again 
and home is waiting
where it was left.

Just breath deep,
look in
And say... 

It's on your lips

[For full chapter, click here

This chapter brings together and closes the sequence of chapters dealing with the future covenant, with their attendant blessings and curses. As such, it repeats and intensifies many of the key words that have run throughout these chapters: "Look, I have set before you to do the life and the good, and the death and the evil. Choose life that you might live!" Once again, the focus on "seeing" (r'e'e), and on binary oppositions with a clear path running between; again, the focus on the wayward "heart" (lev); on what is given (n't'n); and on learning to hear. 

Yet there is a profoundly different ambiance to this chapter of reconciliation than those previous chapters of threat and imprecation. A kind of peace that comes after the storm: "and it shall be when all these things have come upon you, the blessing at the curse." No more dire warnings. It will all happen, regardless. What is important is that there is a way back. Again and again, the chapter repeats the root sh'a'v--"return," "reconciliation," which is also the root for the Hebrew word for repentance, teshuva: "you shall return (ve-shavta) to God, your Lord... and God your Lord will return (shav) you from captivity (shvut'kha)" . If in previous chapters, the land becomes a physical embodiment of the relationship with God, here the return to the Land is the direct correlation of spiritual reconciliation.

The focus on return is echoed in the literary form, which forms a chiastic frame structure, that returns us to the the initial threats and promises: if in chapter 28, the curse revolves around the "the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your animal," here, God will increase "the fruit of the womb at the fruit of your animal" more than it was in the beginning.

 What is discovered in this long way home is that the way back was no so far as what it seemed. It is not in the heavens, or over the see, but "it is very close to you, in your mouth and your heart to do." What is furthest in the end turns out to be closest, like the frame structure of the chapter,  which brings us back to the beginning.]


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