21 February 2010

Feb 21

Oh Lord, don't rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage! Your arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me. Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because off my sins. -- Psalm 38:1-3

Reference links:
Old Testament

Today we learn about unclean animals! Eating or touching the dead carcass of unclean animals does not earn the punishment of being put to death or banished from the community. Instead, the pattern seems to be that those who eat or touch such things become defiled and must clean themselves and avoid interaction with sanctified items for a period of time.

You can read the Wikipedia article if you want a full list of the animals considered clean and unclean, a discussion of how these restrictions translate into modern kosher diets, and a discussion of mistakes in classifying animals. The high level points are
  • Animals that have completely split hooves and chew their cud are clean. Animals with split hooves that are not evenly divided or that do not chew their cud are unclean. This includes all animals that have paws and all animals that scurry along the ground.
  • Marine animals must have fins and scales are considered clean. 
  • Specific types of birds are unclean, but we are not given a general rule.
  • Winged insects that walk along the ground are unclean with some exceptions; it is unclear whether the exception is all winged insects that walk along the ground and have jointed legs that allow them to jump or just the specific ones listed.
Women are ceremonially unclean after giving birth. 7 days for a boy and two weeks for a girl. After birth, a woman must wait 33 days (boy) or 66 days (girl) to be considered purified from the bleeding that accompanied the birth. I believe it was in Anita Diamant's The Red Tent: A Novel where I first heard the idea that the separation of women after childbirth could very well have been welcomed as a sort of maternal leave. Whether or not that was the original intent of the purity laws, I think it not unlikely that women did actually appreciate having time to rest and recover after the birth of a child.

New Testament

In today's reading, Jesus performs two healings for followers who have faith. The Gospel of Matthew provides more details for both of these healings than the Gospel of Mark did.

Jairus, the leader of the local synagogue, asked Jesus to heal his daughter. Before Jesus could go, the daughter died. Jesus went to Jairus' home despite that and raised her from the dead.

On the way, a woman who had been bleeding for twelve years touched Jesus' cloak and was healed. In Matthew, it is unclear how Jesus notices the woman in the midst of a crowd. In Mark we read,
Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him
I have played enough role playing games to know that the proper response to such a statement is to start wondering about Jesus as a character in such a game. He's definitely your healer, although it sounds like if you level him up enough he will be able to summon armies of angels, so you should not completely neglect his combat skills.

Psalms and Proverbs

Today's psalm David reverts to asking God to stop torturing and neglecting him. Some of the verses make it sound like David is ill and believes God sent his sickness as punishment.

I will have to admit that today's first verse from Proverbs reminded me of some denominations of Christianity, and not in a good way:
The wise are glad to be instructed,
but babbling fools fall flat on their faces.