Torah Study Notes 4-21-12

April 21, 2011
P. 711
Leviticus begins with a description of the priesthood and the role of Aaron and his children. There are only two stories in the entire book – the rest is God speaking to Moses. One of the stories is about the error of Aaron’s two sons and their punishment. That covers the issue of ritual purity. They are hollowed out – their spirit is removed. The discussion is therefore about the internal – spiritual – not psychological. For the most part biblical text deals with deeds. God may know what is in your heart but the community does not. Ritual purity takes place below the surface of the individual. What we ingest has an impact on what is beneath – hence the dietary laws.
10:16 “Then Moses inquired about the goat of purgation offering, and it had already been burned!” This is about the ordination of priests – they have been kept solitary for seven days and not they emerge to make offerings. The first two sons have died at this point – disrupting the ceremony. Now the goat has been burned improperly outside the sacred area. Here, errors in the text – any logical problems – have been deliberately included. See the works of biblical scholar Tikfa Frymer- Krenski on the subject of Moses running up and down the mountain – left in to demonstrate the conflation of several narrative traditions. Note the unusual use of an exclamation mark at the end of the first sentence – changing the question to a statement.
10:19 A deviation from the instructions is now deemed acceptable. Aaron points out the changed circumstance which justifies the change. This is a brief meditation on what it means to follows rules – they are not to be followed slavishly.
11:1 The first story of Leviticus has ended. Now we are into specific rule-making. What is the global idea here? That we have been terrified by the story of Aaron’s sons and now are given the rules that must be followed? SN: There seems to be a shift from knowing what God wants to putting us all into a state of anxiety. PG: This chapter is prescriptive in tone. But everyone already knew what was not to be eaten – only now this knowledge is connected to God. Things may be transformed from being ordinary to the subject of a covenant. As in Abrahams journey in Genesis – where he decided to leave his father’s house and then encountered God. Now he is on a journey directed by the Holy – the cultural, historic and contingent now becomes sacred. LL: This appears to be a basic step in creating a religion. SF: To a certain extent this is a training process – it encourages discipline and self-restraint. There is move toward becoming both a people apart and also a more profound way of thinking about faith. PG: Christianity spiritualized all activity – so what you ate became irrelevant. Islam sees Judaism as a failed religion – and tries to get it “right” by re-interpreting the Torah.

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