Friday, June 20, 2008

Quote of the Day: Leviticus 19:30; 26:2

את־שבתתי תשמרו ומקדשי תיראו אני יהוה

(Lev. 19:30; 26:2)

For you non-Hebrew readers, this says, "Observe my Sabbaths and venerate my Sanctuary. I am YHWH." Both quotations come from a part of the Pentateuch called the Holiness Code (Lev. 17-26). Some distinctive elements of the Holiness School (which produced the Holiness Code) is God's self assertions, as in this passage: "I am YHWH." And the first-person singular possessive: "my Sabbaths" and "my sanctuary." Moreover, HS tends to give quite an increased reverence for the Sabbath. Taking a look at this passage, as well as how the Sabbath is interwoven in the instructions to build the Tabernacle and the actual building of the Tabernacle (Exod. 31:12-17; 35:1-3; the entire instructions are Exodus 25-31; 35-40), the question arises: "What does the Sabbath have to do with the Sanctuary?" Why bring them together, and, in this case, even seem to privilege the Sabbath over the Sanctuary? The Rabbis suggested that this meant that even the construction of the Tabernacle does not supersede Sabbath observance (Sifra, Qedoshim 7:7). There may be something to that. But this layer of the Pentateuch elevates the Sabbath, magnifying its importance to ever-new heights. In short, the Priestly texts (including HS) place the Sabbath's sanctity on par with the Sanctuary, the typical benchmark of holiness. For example, in this layer, the Sabbath is added to the list of festivals, and, contrary to previous parlance, becomes a day of "proclaimed holiness." The language for violating the Sabbath is similar to defiling the Sanctuary--חלל (Exod 31:14; Lev. 21:12, 13). The punishment is karet. Most of all, the Sabbath becomes a "sign of the covenant" at Sinai. Overall, the Sabbath and the Sanctuary become equivalent in holiness as the HS elevated the Sabbath to the sanctity of the Sanctuary: they are qualitatively equivalent in holiness. Put another way, the Tabernacle expresses God's holiness in space and the Sabbath expresses God's holiness in time. Both, in turn, relate to Israel's holiness--by constructing the Tabernacle, observing the Sabbath, and obeying the commandments (Leviticus 19), Israel becomes holy as God is holy.

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