Yes, I’ve fallen behind again and I apologize. So, now we wade deeper into Leviticus and I must confess, I find myself confused.
Not by everything. Some things, of course, make sense when you think about it. To speak of skin disease or mold; it is odd to my mind to think of them as related to religion at all, but religion does not permeate our society the way it may once have. To look at it, I can see it as what it likely was — a rudimentary attempt to classify things that often — but not always — caused problems. Some conditions which manifest with skin lesions are contagious and deadly. Some mold is nasty business that will screw you up fairly efficiently. But since you couldn’t exactly take a culture and run a lab test to see what was up, they did the best they could to protect the population as a whole, even if that meant isolation or temporarily quarantining individuals.
Though I do admit that the section on skin caused me to spend some time staring at my arms rather intently. I suffer from vitiligo, a condition where the skin does not always produce pigment. It manifests as white patches all over the skin — I’m lucky in that I’m pale enough that it’s not obvious so long as I don’t tan. But it did put in my mind, what it would have been like to have that in a different time, how it would have been viewed. (I did, after a bit of staring, determine that since the white patches are dull and the hair growing in them is not white, I would probably be considered ritually clean. Yay!)
But then we get into other thing. The menstruation and semen bit really threw me for a loop. Because I don’t think of either as being a particularly impure substance, and the idea of menstruation as ritually inappropriate raises some feminist hackles. But I had a conversation with Nancy, and it got me started thinking about how these things might have been seen differently. How there might have been less distinguishing between disease-related emissions and others, and how ideas like regular periods would not have been so clear. After all, now we go through puberty younger, and reproduce later and less frequently; establishing a pattern is easier. Plus, it would have been more difficult, without modern medicine, to distinguish between normal and abnormal bleeding.
Then we move onto animals. Animals that are apparently sorted in ways that boggle my mind. But it calls to mind a sermon that we conveniently had in church last week that talked about the view of uncleanliness. It is, in essence, about something that is out of place. As our priest put it, soil on the ground is earth, on your hands it is dirty and unclean.
So this then becomes a sorting of things that make sense and do not. Animals with cloven hoofs that chew cud, versus animals that have only one of those. Fish that have fins and scales as opposed to shellfish that do not. To be fair, a lobster does look kinda freaky and odd. I’m not sure I’d be up for eating it if I didn’t already know it was both edible AND delicious.
It’s an interesting to keep this in mind while reading this. Because the term unclean is so loaded and so negative. It makes me recoil and tense up defensively, about something being bad or shameful, something that will bring punishment.
But if unclean means out of place, then it means something else. Because when something is out of place, what do you do with it? You find a place that it does belong. So what changes if I look at this that way?