Monday, February 14, 2011


Finished reading Leviticus yesterday. The third book (of the five) of Moses, translated from Hebrew, is "And He Called." I like the poetry in that. Reading it, however, is not exactly poetic. Leviticus is essentially a rule book, an expansion of the 10 Commandments, the laws set out for the Isrealites as told by God to Moses on Mt. Sinai. It's the Book of Abominations. (What not to do.) There's a whole lotta bloodshed going on what with all the lambs and goats and turtle doves being slaughtered for sin offerings and burnt offerings and offerings of atonement, and also a lot of explaining about what to do with someone who shows signs of leprosy. And then, of course there's all the rules about sex -- don't sleep with animals or other men (interesting it doesn't say women shouldn't sleep with other women, but only that they shouldn't sleep with "beasts," as this would be "confusion." Weird.)

The whole book is pretty disturbing. I understand that the priests, Aaron and his sons, would find specific rules about ritual practices useful, but boy, the Old Testament is sure filled with some nasty stuff.

"And if, when the priest seeth it, behold, it be in sight lower than the skin, and the hair thereof be turned white; the priest shall pronounce him unclean: it is a plague of leprosy broken out of the boil." (13:20)

On top of that, it's very repetitive and there's no narrative. It's just rule after weird and disturbing rule. Of course, at that time the laws would have made sense. And some of them are timeless:

"Though shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord." (19:18)

But what's with the priests putting blood on the tip of the right ear lobe, the right thumb, and the right big toe of the person making the offering to God? I couldn't seem to find an explanation in the Bible itself or in Bible for Dummies. Again, there's so much that seems so arbitrary. Granted, I'm no theologian, but why it's important for these chosen people to do some of the stuff they're supposed to do just seems so... pagan.

Another interesting thing -- don't drink blood. That's very clear. Being a vampire is not okay with God. Eat meat (but only certain kinds; pig is not cool. Neither is camel nor rabbit), but definitely don't drink the blood of the animal. And don't eat anything you didn't slaughter yourself. I guess being a vegan was not an option if you lived in the desert in those times. Having an intact foreskin was also not an option. I've heard the theory that all the rules have to do with being healthy ("healthy" and "holy" mean the same thing, don't they?) so I guess it made sense in those times for people to follow these rules to stay well, in every sense of that word.
Of course, it's also about keeping the covenant, the agreement with Yahweh. But I guess I would have to talk to a rabbi or priest to get at the fundamental truths that extend through time, the rules that hold true for those who still use the Torah/Old Testament to guide their lives today. I'm curious to know how these rules apply and are followed by Jews in the 21st century.

**NEXT: Numbers

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