Torah Study Notes 5-9-15

May 9, 2015

p 823

23:1 A description of the festivals over the course of the year. The organization of the Book of Leviticus is fundamentally ritual practice – the activities of the priests. It starts with the most frequent activity like daily sacrifice and here moves to regularized activities like the annual festivals and then to the seven and fifty year occurrences.  HF: Are the Books of equal size? PG: Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers are broken down into the same number of chapters (a 10th C. innovation performed by Irish Monks,)  but that does not necessarily represent the same size of the Books. There are 859 verses in the Book of Leviticus. Here we start with the days of the week. LL: What is the original meaning of “Sabbath” in Hebrew? PG: To cease from work – but we don’t know if it originally had a religious connotation. It may have had connection to an observance of the cycles of the moon. See Plaut footnote.

23:4 Note the pronoun “my” in the first verse whereas “the” is used here. The timing of the rest of the festivals are determined by the moon and the sun – so do not need to be specifically scheduled. Celebration of harvest and the change in the year was inherent in this agricultural society. These things are built into the system as it were whereas Shabbat is a divine revelation that is not built into nature. Consider what Jesus and the apostle Paul have said about the Jewish Sabbath; there was a new covenant that pushed aside much of Israelite practice – shifting Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. That all changed during the Protestant separation from Catholicism when there was a return to the five books and the normative practices of Shabbat. There were also Sabbatarians in the 4th C. and now Seventh Day Adventists. See: and

There were nationally competing values and wars as to God’s intent which ended in the 19th C with efforts to separate church and state. Note that there are exigencies where “work” is permitted – such as to save a life.

23: 5 A Passover offering of unleavened bread. The Hebrew word is “Pesach” but the translators assumed here that it was the offering for the Sabbath. There are at least two origins for this word – Spring – and to be maimed – unable to move one’s legs. Note that this is in the first month of the year – which here occurs in Spring. The twelve months was originally from the ancient Zodiac and resulted in a numeric system that is based on twelve – such as 24 hours in the day, 60 minutes in the hour etc.

25:9 “Bring the first sheaf of the harvest to the priest…” considerable detail as to the proper sacrifice. Note verse eleven which addresses the day after the Sabbath and is somewhat ambiguous as to the day of Passover – which is also a day in which one does not work. See the work of Solomon Zeitlin which examines issues of calendar as reflected in the Torah.  He argues that the loss of days during the solar year is made up during the Jubilee every fifty years. Control of the calendar is arguably an assertion of power – and is frequently seen in societies where changes are made based on revolution. To the extent that government cannot change the seasons etc this is subversive – no human authority can change this. AF: There is a recognition here that we are an unruly and difficult people who need constant reminders of our religious obligations. LL: One of the strengths of Islam is that is requires prayer five time a day. That is also why it is arguably a breeding ground for fanaticism.

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