By Professor Beth A. Berkowitz

This booklet lines the interpretive profession of Leviticus 18:3, a verse that forbids Israel from imitating its acquaintances. Beth A. Berkowitz exhibits that old, medieval, and smooth exegesis of this verse presents an important backdrop for present day conversations approximately Jewish assimilation and minority identification extra normally. the tale of Jewishness that this booklet tells could shock many glossy readers for whom spiritual id revolves round ritual and worship. In Lev. 18:3's tale of Jewishness, sexual perform and cultural behavior as an alternative loom huge. The readings during this e-book are on a micro-level, yet their implications are far-ranging: Berkowitz transforms either our concept of Bible-reading and our feel of the way Jews have outlined Jewishness.

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1480), a Franco-Italian rabbinic authority also known as the Maharik, offers a reading of Lev. 18:3 in a responsum regarding whether the physician’s robe called the cappa is permitted to be worn by Jews. Colon’s treatment of “their laws” in that responsum continues to be concerned with rationalism but also introduces interests in Jewish morality and psychology. I pay attention to key silences in Colon’s text regarding the relevant talmudic pericopes, the Italian “Jewbadge,” and Italian women’s dress.

Drawing on Welch, we find that the text is not only about boundaries but also made up of boundaries: The purpose of Lev. 18:3’s prohibition is reflected in its literary structure. For example, the chiasmus that joins verses 4 and 5, which together demand observance of God’s rules, has the effect of creating a self-contained unit out of that demand. Verse 3, which marginalizes the practices of Egypt and Canaan, is also literarily marginal in that it stands outside the chiasmus. The chiasmus succeeds in circumscribing the people of God and excluding the peoples of Egypt and Canaan.

Another comment in the Sifra exploits the ambiguities within Leviticus 18 to offer a relatively restrictive reading of Lev. 18:3’s scope that sees its separatism targeting formal law. Philo’s allegorical exegesis, we will see in the next chapter, shifts the terms of distinctiveness altogether, and that too is illuminated by deeper engagement with Lev. 18:3’s details. Familiarity with the literary fissures within and among the biblical passages allows us to appreciate the choices made by their interpreters and foregrounds the ideology that drives those choices.

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