Torah Study Notes 4-1-12

April 1, 2011
p. 694
Leviticus 8:1 The Eternal One spoke to Moses… The first seven chapters of Leviticus have dealt with sacrifices. What has not been mentioned is who performs the sacrifices and the qualifications of the priests. Here, Aaron and his four sons are brought before the community leadership.
8:6 GT: How do these things become sacred? PG: This is a description of the process. It is being depicted here. “..as the eternal commanded Moses.” God has instructed him – implanted visions within his brain. Consider the Chinese factory worker who is assigned the assembly of a computer component. He probably does not understand the entire machine. SF: One has to give up part of oneself to accept teachings – either pragmatically or spiritually. SN: Is Moses speaking or is Aaron speaking for him? PG: See Plaut p. 612 where Moses comes down from the mountain the second time. In verse 10 – “…let all among you who are skilled make what the Eternal has commanded.” It is the meaning of the word “skilled” here that is critical – they are the ones who are capable of accepting the vision that God has implanted in Moses – to take the idea and make it into reality. Here the word “skilled” is more akin to “adept.” Those same people who have been instrumental in creating the paraphernalia are standing with Moses and Aaron and Moses is dressing Aaron with what they have created – the breast piece, diadem, etc. The people understand because they are “skilled” meaning here, literally, “wise in the heart.” PG: Here the idea of Moses is being realized – from an inchoate vision of an individual to acceptance by a people. Truth requires a response before it is justified. The items that have been created become imbued with meaning – as does Aaron – once the items are assembled and used.
8:10 Notice that the anointing oil is used on the tabernacle – establishing their sacred purpose via public performance. LL: This is all genius. It is no easy task to create a religion. PG: This elaborate ceremony, complete with rare objects, is something that is way beyond the experience of the ordinary person. LL: There is a lesson in leadership here. Bonaparte was fascinated with designing uniforms for his various troops – as have many other military leaders. Here the genius of leadership is taking the abstraction and transforming it into reality via ritual and spectacle. PG: But it is the priests who are charged with making all of this work. They are establishing the connection between heaven and earth. They are the ones who must be trusted. Consider “performative language” first suggested by Wittgenstein. The act of speaking is creative “let there be light.” Stanley Cavell: It makes no difference what the internal condition of the speaker is. Once the promise has been made publicly they can be held to it. SF: In the Mussar tradition one must act once you have learned a certain set of values. These values become part of one’s neurobiological system. PG: The growing distrust of the priesthood – exemplified by the Maccabean revolt – was the precursor to the crisis of the first century. That crisis was responded to in two ways: by the creation of rabbinic Judaism and the establishment of the Davidic kingdom in the person of Jesus. SN: There is an enormous effort here to create a priestly class of which Moses is not a member. What are the implications of that? PG: How can Moses even have a brother? It makes no sense from the original story of Moses being saved by the Pharaoh’s sister while all the male children were being killed. Aaron appears suddenly – almost “deus ex machina.” As if he was needed in the narrative. At the time Leviticus was written the Aaronite priests were in ascendency. See Richard Eliot Friedman on “Who Wrote The Bible.” The civil service priesthood mentioned in Deuteronomy has disappeared. Remember that the Torah was likely assembled in its present form in the post-exilic period – 500 to 450 BCE. There are many ideas about the sources and ages of the component parts. SF: What is the lesson here for the modern Jew – or Board member? PG: It is the idea, the memory, the association, of Sinai. Everyone was there – male and female, young and old, rich and poor. We are descendents of that family and we identify with them and their God and their narrative. This is very distinct from Christianity and Islam. The Christians and Muslims have an ethnic history that preceded their faith. There is no Israel prior to Sinai. See Judith Pleskow’s book “Standing Again at Sinai.”

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