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So some men have the book

india Updated: Oct 17, 2008 22:37 IST

The five books of Moses (the Pentateuch) are the Torah of the Jews and in them, Leviticus is the third book. Leviticus is also Book Three in what is called the Old Testament in the Christian Bible. Leviticus means ‘relating to the Levites’ (a Jewish tribe). In Hebrew, Leviticus would read ‘Vayikra’. This book corresponds in some ways to the Yajur Veda of the Hindus, wherein priestly codes and rituals are set out. Leviticus is also the book where everyday Do’s and Don’ts are laid down: starting with how to select an animal for sacrifice (Leviticus 1), what not to eat, like pork and shellfish, sexual restrictions (no incest, adultery and “lying down with mankind as with womankind”). The last chapter (Leviticus 27) is about cattle, fields and tithes Some say that Leviticus was composed around 550 BCE and incorporated into the Torah around 400 BCE . The Jewish custom is to name books by their first word, like how the Isha Upanishad takes its name from its first line, Ishavaasyam idam sarvam: God is the owner of all this (Creation).

While some Jews said it was revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai, later Jewish scholars suggest that the priestly code and ritual injunctions found in Leviticus were the work of ‘the priests of Aaron’. Whatever, Leviticus is a major source of Jewish scriptural law (shastra, as Hindus would say). Christians consider themselves excused from its dietary injunctions after St Paul, a strict Jew before he underwent a cataclysmic conversion to Christianity on the road to Damascus, rewrote some laws. About two-thirds of the New Testament is attributed to Paul and he said (Corinthians 10: 23-26), to “eat anything sold in the marketplace without questions of conscience.”

But don’t you think Yeshua (Jesus) had the goods when he taught it is “not that which goeth into the mouth that defileth a man…but the things that proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and these defileth a man,” (Mathew 15:11)?

Leviticus is what Jews believe God told Moses to tell them about how to live as a disciplined community with strict laws on what is “allowed” and what is not. God even gets into details like how exactly a pigeon’s neck should be wrung: Leviticus 1:15: “And the priest shall bring it unto the altar, and wring off his head, and burn it on the altar; and the blood thereof shall be wrung out at the side of the altar.” This could be a shaman talking, except it sounds so grand in Hebrew or Sanskrit.

What I’m trying to say is, if you really look at our Holy Books, Jewish or Hindu, they get into micro-management about very basic things and some of them start telling you how to sit, stand and wash and even how to make out. Do we assume that God chose to appear only to early nomads and agrarian types? Or only to Aaronid priests? Or only to ancient Hindus with topknots that were antennae to Heaven? All of the above; and then some?

Either way, it’s time, don’t you think, to freeze what’s relevant (being nice to everybody) and take a personal call on the rest? It’s impossible for both mind and heart to accept that Almighty God is a god of small things and actually minds if some man ate bacon for breakfast, some woman wore a sari like a sarong or anybody married out of caste and creed. Wouldn’t you want God big-hearted and chilled-out, a God with better things to do than act like a manic mother-in-law sweating the small stuff?