Oh, look. More sacrifice.
I have the feeling that as we wade through Leviticus my post are going to be a lot less cohesive and more disjointed, as I pick out bits and pieces of interest and try not to dwell on repetitive bits.
One interesting big here that recurs — even if one sins unknowingly, one is still guilty once one is made aware of the sin. Ignorance of the law is no defense, in other words. Which seems a bit off theologically to me, but makes sense sociologically and anthropologically — if ignorance is a defense, everyone’s just going to try to stay ignorant to avoid the rules.
Another thing interesting to me is that withholding testimony is a sin. Historically, I can see the usefulness of this in setting up a system of justice. Compelling someone to testify is useful. It’s also one that strikes me as something we didn’t hang on to very well, value-wise. How often do we say or think, don’t get involved. Not your problem. Especially now — I’m trying not to stray into politics, but how often do we see that someone who speaks out with truth is branded the traitor or castigated?
We also have a bit about uncleanness. This is one of those things that just reads odd to my modern mind. To me unclean is literal – -we know now of germs and infection and disease transmission, but none of these things are handled by ritualized purification. (Though I’ve met a few folks for whom the use of Purell nearly rises to that level.) To think of a uncleanliness as a spiritual state is more difficult.
Then we come back to the idea of a justice system. If you defraud or steal or withhold something of a neighbors, you must return it AND make reparation. Then you must also make a ritual offering.
This, there’s something I like very much in it. Because it recognizes more than God is involved in justice. Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? No matter how great karma or divine justice might be in the end, it doesn’t do a whole lot to repair the situation of the victim. Even if you believe that the perpetrator will get their due in the end, that’s small comfort. Especially if you desperately need what was taken.
We like to let people off with apologies. It makes it easier. Say you’re sorry– not even to the victim, but to God or the public or the SEC — and promise never to do it again. But does that work? Not often.
This says something different, something that marries the concrete, societal reality with spiritual penance. It says, first do this: first give back what you took. Then give back more to make amends. Then, you bring to the priest an offering. Then you may be granted forgiveness.
I realize this doesn’t apply to everything — forgiveness may also be freely granted in many cases for many reason. But I think there’s also something to this; to the idea that there’s working in repairing the wrong that has to come first.