Sunday, May 13, 2007

 

A Catastrophe of Biblical Proportions

This last Shabbos we read the last two portions of the Book of Leviticus. While we normally think of Leviticus as being irrelevent to our modern lives, in which we don't have the Temple Sacrifices, etc. (and during this time, Rabbis and lay leaders 'round the world are carefully reading the Haftoroth and the newspapers to figure out what to talk about in their sermons, 'cause they sure ain't gonna talk about the gory details -- pun intended -- of the sacrificial offerings), the close of Leviticus is most relevent (if only to our Talmud study, since we are just beginning chapter 5 of Baba Metzia which deals with interest).

While the U.S. is not the sort of Jewish theocracy that cannot even exist in the state of Israel as the Messiah is not yet come, so hence we are not subject to the laws of sh'mita and of Jubilee, we are a country that was colonized by Puritans seeking to establish a "City on a Hill", a country on whose liberty bell is written the key phrase of Jubilee (found in this last week's parsha): "proclaim liberty unto the land and all its inhabitants thereof". We are a country in which too many people feel it is their moral duty to get laws passed that regulate our most intimate relationships, based on what they feel the Hebrew Bible, especially Leviticus says.

And yet, do people actually make any effort to even capture the spirit if not the letter of Leviticus? This weekend in my fair city, the local independent cinema screened the provocative film Maxed Out. Our economy, while having clear winners, is on the brink of collapse because we have let debt strangle us. At various times, Western society has let the majority of its members fall into wage slavery and/or serfdom due to debt. Levitical law, while perhaps going too far in prohibiting any interest and in requiring loans be forgiven every 7 years, prevents this sort of stagnation by allowing the economic pot to be stirred by Jubilee's reshifting the wealth. The liberty of Jubilee isn't just spiritual or physical, it is also economic.

Yet do the self-appointed guardians of our morality even address this issue? As they push to outlaw abortion (which, in more than a few cases, is not even an aveirah and in some cases is a Mitzvah) and maintain a second class citizenship status for homosexuals -- in the name of Biblical morality -- do they also push for the proclaimation of Jubilee for which we are long overdue?

For that matter, they complain that those of us who are secular "Darwinists" want to take God out of society and out of descriptions of God's creation -- yet only now are they paying attention to the fact that when we are not proper stewards of God's creation, God punishes us? Not for issues of private "morality", but for failing to try criminals (and sticking terrorists in Gitmo rather than trying them is a failure to adjucate their cases in court), for ignoring the plight of the poor, for despoiling the environment by over-taxing the soil and for not following the laws of release of debts, etc.

As I write this, the smoke over Tallahassee is dense. There are fires of Biblical proportions. We are in a drought of Biblical proportions. Would I be too much of a fundie nut-case if I were to point out that this is how Leviticus claims we will be punished if we fail to heed God's laws?

See the movie Maxed Out. We have a terrible price to pay 'cause we've ignored Leviticus. Why don't the people trying to push their peculiar interpretations of religious morality on us pay heed to what it actually says in the Bible? Why don't we go after preditory lenders? Why are we despoiling God's creation? Why are we inviting catastrophe.

Leviticus may seem to be a severe and out-of-date book. But let's at least pay attention to the closing two parshos. Before it's too late.

Comments:
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