I’m back! Again. So, a lot of stuff packed into these bits.
First, we come to one of the most perplexing laws to me. Not wearing fabric woven of linen and wool. I know it’s really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but this one has always bugged me. Why? What was the rational? I feel I really must know.
Then we have a whole section on laws around virginity, adultery, rape and divorce. There are a lot of things in here that are problematic and I’m still sorting out. The physical evidence of virginity, for one, since that is not universal. (For any number of reasons.) The distinction between rape where there may be witnesses and rape where there is not — coming from a perspective where there is much more awareness around intimidation, coercion, etc. and sexual assault, that makes some of that just appalling. On the other hand, rape (at least with no witnesses) is treated as a crime on par with murder which, frankly, is doing a heck of lot better than our legal system.
I’m not even going to talk about the idea of a woman forced to marry her rapist. Cultural and historic awareness aside, the thought turns my stomach. I just can’t.
But then we move into things that get really interesting. No charging interest on loans. The ability to take what is needed to meet an immediate need from a field (but not enough to profit from or save). Leaving the gleanings for the poor.
On the one hand, I find a great sense of validation in these, as someone who takes a decidedly social justice bent to faith. Caring for the poor is part of faith, it’s just the one that we like to conveniently forget first. Financial ethics is another — I can’t imagine any of the religion spouting politicians running on a campaign of outlawing interest, can you?
But on the other hand, a closer reading leaves me feeling unsettled. Because while these things treat the immediate problem, they don’t do a whole lot to address the underlying cause. Take the example of the commandment that a man may take from his neighbor’s vineyard what he can eat, but not carry it out. This addresses hunger, so good on that. But it doesn’t do anything to address the starving man’s next meal, to provide that security.
Same with leaving the gleanings for the poor or widowed. Yes, that may provide a subsistence level to meet immediate needs. But that’s not really living, is it? It’s not giving any help to move people out of poverty,
Which just goes to show, I suppose, that the issues we grapple with today are not new. We can struggle day in and out with this, on many levels. How do you tackle systematic structural disadvantages? Is it better to put resources into meeting the immediate needs of a few or do you try to solve the bigger problem for many?
I know there aren’t easy answers to these questions and I’m not sure there ever can be. But part of me wants to find them — to turn to a sacred text and find a great sweeping vision, a bold plan, a concrete answer. Realizing that there isn’t leaves me feeling a bit unsettled.