Tuesday, January 08, 2008

This Crazy Leviticus Thing

by Ian Frazier

I should have posted this back on New Year's Eve, but didn't yet really have a firm plan in my mind for how I was going to handle this crazy "Living Levitically" experiment. My plan has gelled over the last week, though, so I'll go ahead and post now:

My goal for the month of January is to live according to the book of Leviticus as literally as I can, while taking into account the obvious major changes caused by the work of Jesus and trying to get some sense of how specific prohibitions are understood in traditional Judaism.

A Couple Changes Due to that Jesus Fellow:
  • I consider Sunday the Sabbath instead of Saturday, in response to the Resurrection. Apart from the change of day, I treat it Levitically.

  • A very large chunk of Leviticus revolves around the details of various sacrifices--although I'm still reading those parts, I'm not performing them, as Christ serves as the sacrifice that covers all sacrifices, so to speak. Even if He didn't, though, I still don't think I'd be doing them--let's face it: I don't own a herd and I think the authorities might be less than thrilled if they caught me throwing nets over pigeons to take them home, domesticate them, and then sacrifice them on an altar.

A Couples Pieces of Rabbinical Interpretation:
  • The literal words of Leviticus prohibit the wearing of clothing of "mixed fibers," which would seem to mean that I can't wear a polyester/cotton T-shirt. So for the first day of January, I went with all 100% materials. I was talking with a Jewish friend of mine in the UK, though, and he pointed me to the concept of shatnez, which indicates that in traditional Jewish thought, the prohibition is really specifically referring to mixtures of linen and wool--so I've been only avoiding that particular mix since that time.

  • I'm not shaving or cutting my hair at all in the month of Leviticus, taking the very conservative approach, but it seems there have been centuries of debate on this matter.

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