Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Leviticus 16 - a bit of background thinking

What should I do with cover when it means covering over (not covering up) sin, transgression, and defilement, I have chosen a run-around, work-around, or phrase for כפר used as a verb with these objects: to find a cover-price or simply to cover.

[The cover-price image for כפר I took from my memory of the Psalms, particularly Psalm 49. The use of find as a helping verb will not work well. Job 33:24 is a counter example where the verb for find is itself present. So it must be something else. I will use the helping verb make/do. Just like others have. I see JB has perform the rite of atonement - even more syllables! Singing this to the music will require some subtlety.]

One is supposed to begin one's instruction with Leviticus, the centre of Torah, but I am slow and it is complex. That word cover, כפר, (even the Hebrew has the same letter sounds: kfr), is often translated in Torah as something like make atonement. I have used atonement only once, in an indeterminate gloss that I used for Miktam in the inscription of Psalm 16. For this one word, I wrote from gold, concerning atonement, through inscription. I was being light-hearted.

I have managed in the first 55% of my reading in Hebrew and writing in English to avoid three common religious words: repent, soul, and atonement. I avoided these because they are loaded, overloaded with both our prejudice and our confusion.

I have not avoided using shame, or turning, or returning, or love, or bearing guilt, or mercy. I have not avoided unity, or reconciliation, or justice. A healthy conscience will know all these things.
Like Orwell, I think abuse of power is probably our worst besetting sin. We do pollute the temple, an image of the created order in which we find ourselves.

Here's my list of uses so far for כפר:  cover(21), cover-price(9), covered(2), covering(1), cub(3), cubs - young lions(1), cubs(4), find cover-price(8), finding cover-price(1), found cover-price(2), frost(1), henna(2), lion cubs(1), made covering(1), mercy seat(26), over-covering(1), young lion(5), young lions(5).

Also in Leviticus 16 we have two kids, (two goats) one chosen by lot for a sin offering, and the other, the living one, to be sent to Azazel. Azazel? What is that? Isn't it the scapegoat? It is the kid that escapes. Scapegoat, understood or not, is a word that since the 16th century has become common in the English language. This kid is parted from the people, adjudicated as separate. The depleted kid carries away the sins of the people. If we play with the three instances of  אזל depleted(1), evaporate(1), gad about(1) that I have used so far, we get that the kid evaporates as it gads about in the wilderness. Not a bad ending for sin. The impact of sin is dealt with and abated through this living kid.

This is the only chapter where this word traditionally rendered as scapegoat occurs.

The setting loose of the kid in the wilderness is freeing the people from all those things we, the people, need to be freed from. (Not to mention the most important aspect of the complex of rites: cleansing the creation.) What then will I do for a gloss for עזאזל? Is this a composite of two different words, or just the name of a desert god? Maybe transliterating the letters is OK?

עזז she-goats(18), strength(88), strengthened himself(1), strengthens(1), strong(14), stronghold(4) [so far...]

My choice will probably be scapegoat. Maybe I could coin something related to the kid who makes strength evaporate. Sin is of course, a false strength, an abuse of power. (Translation is the next post).