I’m back. It was a good jaunt to Osaka and Kyoto, though I wish I’d had more time to do it. I’m mostly feeling better, though I have an, er, “productive” cough. I feel somewhat psychologically refreshed to. I’ve got this item on my bucket list done, and I’m feeling even more confident about my decision to return to America in August…
The online NRSV I’ve been using calls this section “Ritual and Moral Holiness,” but as near as I can tell this chapter makes absolutely no distinction between ritual and morality. It jumps from the famous and beloved “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v 18) to rules about not cross-breeding or having two crops in the same field or wearing blended clothing, without the slightest indication that these are two different things.
Why do we make a distinction when we read these? I suppose some of it is trying to distinguish which parts, as Gentiles, we’re expected to follow – and trying to weasel our way out of not having to follow the parts we don’t want to. But much of it comes from reading these passages through first the prophets and then the life of Jesus, who definitely bracket off ritual concerns like sacrifice and purity apart from issues of justice and loving your neighbor.
There’s plenty about justice in here. This is where gleaning is established. I’ve had real life experience with that. At our final party at the end of the vacation Bible school, we had a homeless man approach us, and we gave him a large portion of our leftovers. I think it might not be a bad idea to intentionally leave part of anything we eat in public unfinished with the expectation that we might find people to give it to.
You also have rules about caring for resident aliens – immigration reform, anyone? Keeping weights and scales fair, judging people impartially, not forcing women into prostitution, not delaying the paying of wages to employees… it’s all good stuff.
And so maybe it’s okay for us now to see a difference between ritual and moral codes, even if the original writers didn’t. Just because they saw being separate from other peoples by arbitrary differences to be as much a part of being “holy, [as] the LORD your God [is] holy” (v 2) doesn’t necessarily mean we have to. Our understanding of what true holiness is can evolve and grow deeper. And even the ideas that we have right now may not be the final answer.
The Japanese: fujou “uncleanliness, dirtiness, impurity” (v 7; archaically, this could be as a euphemism for “feces” or “menses,” because traditional Japanese religion was as purity-conscious as anything in the Hebrew Bible), seme o ou “to take the blame” (v 8), tsumitsukusu “to pluck off” (v 10), azamuku “to deceive” (v 11), shiitageru “to oppress,” yatoinin “employee” (v 13), shougaibutsu “obstacle” (v 14), katayoru “to be biased,” omoneru “to flatter,” douhou “fellow countrymen, compatriots” (v 15), chuushou suru “to slander, to libel” (v 16), kouhai suru “to crossbreed” (v 19), momiage “sideburns” (v 27), itamu “to mourn, to lament” (v 28), yuujo “prostitute” (v 29), reibai “spirit medium” (v 31), kiritsu suru “to stand up,” toutobu “to value, to respect” (v 32), hakari “scales,” masu “measure” (v 35).