Sacred Writings

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By Professor Beth A. Berkowitz

This e-book lines the interpretive occupation of Leviticus 18:3, a verse that forbids Israel from imitating its associates. Beth A. Berkowitz exhibits that historic, medieval, and glossy exegesis of this verse offers a vital backdrop for latest conversations approximately Jewish assimilation and minority id extra in general. the tale of Jewishness that this booklet tells may well shock many smooth readers for whom spiritual id revolves round ritual and worship. In Lev. 18:3's tale of Jewishness, sexual perform and cultural conduct as a substitute loom huge. The readings during this booklet are on a micro-level, yet their implications are far-ranging: Berkowitz transforms either our suggestion of Bible-reading and our experience of the way Jews have outlined Jewishness.

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Extra resources for Defining Jewish Difference: From Antiquity to the Present

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The very presence in this passage of parallelism, particularly chiasmus, may speak to Israelite distinctiveness. According to Welch, “[t]he study of chiasmus and structure can also expose to view a distinctiveness of biblical law. ”16 If Welch is right, the very use of chiasmus suggests separation from other legal cultures. The authors of Leviticus 18 not only exhort the Israelites to be distinct, but they also model it. two paradigms of distinctiveness These literary patterns accentuate the demand for Israelite distinctiveness, but they also make it fundamentally ambiguous.

23:12, 26:1, 26:36, 28:11, 28:32, 30:25, Deut. 2:7, 15:10), to positive (the work of God: Exod. 32:16, Deut. 11:7, Josh. 24:31; work related to worship of God: Num. 8:4, 31:51). Negative connotations include ma’aseh as idolatrous worship or the idols themselves (Exod. 23:24, Deut. 4:28, 27:15). In a personal communication, James Kugel suggested that the Bible sometimes uses ma’aseh to refer to people or children (such as in Prov. 31:31), in which case the only noun in Lev. 18:3 that describes prohibited practices is huqotehem.

Verse 30’s ingenious huqot ha-to’evot (abominable laws) combines the huqot language of part one with the to’evot language of part two. 15 The Question of Israelite Distinctiveness 31 gets the impression that the practices of Egypt and Canaan referred to in verse 3 are in fact the incestuous sexual relations (and other transgressions) described in verses 6–23. Two readings (at least) of Lev. 18:3 thus emerge, each of which yields different answers for the interpretive questions that swirl around the verse regarding what and whose practices are prohibited, who must observe the prohibition, and why.

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