Maps and Meaning

Maps and Meaning: Levitical Models for Contemporary Care

Nancy H. Wiener
Jo Hirschmann
Copyright Date: 2014
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  • Book Info
    Maps and Meaning
    Book Description:

    Maps and Meaning is rooted in the authors’ experience as clergy and chaplains and is relevant to those looking for a fresh perspective on biblical narratives related to the role of the priest, patients, soldiers, and others who spend time “outside the camp.” Drawing on diverse fields, from neuroscience to anthropology, the authors consider the geographical, interpersonal, temporal, and spiritual transitions individuals experience when they move “in” and “out of the camp” and the impact their time outside the camp has on family and community. They offer a unique perspective on self-care for caregivers of different disciplines who negotiate these transitions in their work. And they explore the lives and transitions of patients and returning veterans. Drawing on contemporary explorations of stigma, the authors raise communal questions related to healthcare, returning veterans, and incarcerated people. They propose a societal approach that embraces the inevitability of life’s ebbs and flow and that draws maps to facilitate these journeys.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-8754-1
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Claudia Setzer

    The Torah is compared to water, sustaining life, never running dry, a constant well from which to draw up new insights. We relate to the colorful narratives of Genesis and respond to the powerful liberationist themes of Exodus. The prophets call us to social justice. The language and imagery of these works have infused and sustained some of the great movements in American culture—abolitionism, first-wave feminism, and the civil rights movement.

    Yet the Priestly material in Leviticus and Numbers leaves many of us still thirsty. For Jews, the material can make us self-conscious. Its seemingly bizarre and archaic rituals...

  4. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Neil Gillman

    In a recent radio interview, the eminent Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel was asked to speculate about new directions for his discipline in the decades to come. This was his response: “I envision a multiplicity of fields branching out from neuroscience, fields such as neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics, neuroanthropology….” To which I responded, speaking to myself as I listened in my living room, “and neuro-theology.”

    In many ways, it was Kandel’s work that prompted me to view neuroscience as the key discipline for understanding human behavior and community. The reality is that everything human beings do is affected by our minds—...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    To study inchevruta, with a partner, is a mainstay of Jewish life. Over the years, both of us have enjoyed the fruits ofchevrutastudy, but never with the intensity and creativity that led to this book. Five years ago, our mutual curiosity about Jewish teachings that might inform contemporary pastoral caregiving led us to embark on an exploration of biblical texts about sickness and healing. Each study session gave rise to an ever-expanding number of questions and associations, triggering extended forays into fields with which we were already familiar, and new arenas altogether.

    We began by looking at...

  6. 1 “Alert and Oriented” in the Hebrew Bible and Contemporary Life
    (pp. 7-26)

    In emergency rooms, at hospital bedsides, at nurses’ stations, at accident scenes, and in theaters of war, medical staff use a common language to describe patients’ mental status. The shorthand “A&O” indicates that someone is alert and oriented, and medical teams refine this information by describing the number of axes of orientation a patient displays. Oriented times three (which is abbreviated as “O times 3” or “O × 3”) means the patient is oriented to person, place, and time. She can identify who she is, where she is, and what time it is (most often day, month, and year, or...

  7. 2 Mapping Human Communities
    (pp. 27-50)

    Years ago, some atlases took the form of books filled with multilayered, translucent maps. The base map provided the earliest known contours of the country. Subsequent superimposed layers showed how the contours changed over time and indicated topographical features, natural resources, precipitation rates, and the like. This multilayered presentation enhanced the reader’s understanding of the country’s interrelated, yet distinct, aspects. In the following pages, we offer a similar layering of mental maps to present the Priestly imagination, contextualize the specific biblical stories we will explore, and explicate some of the more obscure details contained in them.

    In the Priestly imagination,¹...

  8. 3 The Levitical Priest as a Guide for the Way
    (pp. 51-78)

    In this chapter, we take as our starting point the modern view of clergy as professionals who straddle three roles: priest, prophet, and pastor. Through these three roles, clergy help people connect to themselves, communities, and God. Although the origins of this model are unclear, it is widely invoked by contemporary clergy. Across denominational and religious spectra, seminaries train would-be clergy to fulfill all three of these roles and congregants generally expect their clergy to be competent in all three areas.¹ While this model is obviously of most relevance to members of the clergy, we present it here because it...

  9. 4 Empathy, Overload, and the Ash Heap: The Unmoored Caregiver
    (pp. 79-102)

    With his threefold role, the levitical priest was aMoreh Derekhwho accompanied community members along their physical, emotional, and spiritual journeys. In the last chapter, we explored some of the parallels between the levitical priest and contemporary clergy. In this chapter, we expand our lens to include all trained, professional caregivers. Clergy represent but one type of professional caregiver, all of whom encounter profound and enduring similarities in their journeys from the camp tomichutz lamachanehand back again. Drawing on a single, terse biblical verse that describes the priest’s movement frommichutz lamachanehto the camp, we invite...

  10. 5 Outside the Camp: Patients and Their Loved Ones
    (pp. 103-148)

    Drawing on her own experience of living with cancer, Susan Sontag opens her essay “Illness as Metaphor” with these words. With her image of dual citizenship, Sontag evokes the experience of travel, reminding us that most of us, at some time in our lives, must pick up our second passport and journey to the “kingdom of the sick.” Sontag describes the places where sick people reside as discrete geographic locations that are viscerally and concretely experienced by those who dwell there. She invites those who have not spent time there to imagine, through metaphor, what this “kingdom” might be like,...

  11. 6 The War Camp and the Returning Warrior
    (pp. 149-190)

    In this chapter, we turn to the book of Numbers to explore stories that shed light on military life, the trauma of war, the challenges of reentry for demobilized warriors, and the pervasiveness of war themes in civilian life. Following Leviticus’s exploration of priestly and cultic life, Numbers picks up where Exodus leaves off: after crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites spent two years at the encampment in the Sinai, readying themselves for battle and conquest. The remainder of Numbers is devoted to the Israelites’ travels through the wilderness. Throughout this time, the people swam in a sea of complaint,...

  12. 7 The Priest, Prophet, and Pastor in Each of Us
    (pp. 191-218)

    Primo Levi, philosopher and Auschwitz survivor, wrote these words. Like the levitical conception oftumah, his words acknowledge the persistent reality of “impurities” within the fabric of life. In Leviticus, powerful transformations involving the passage of time and the use of ritual allow for the integration of illness, death, and war into the lives of individuals and the community. Primo Levi similarly proposes that “impurities” are an inevitable element of growth, change, and the maintenance of the diversity that naturally exists in the world. Without this, the world is a place of repression, stagnation, and artificially imposed uniformity.

    Both the...

  13. Glossary
    (pp. 219-222)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 223-234)
  15. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 235-258)
  16. Index of Authors
    (pp. 259-262)
  17. Index of Biblical and Rabbinic Sources
    (pp. 263-265)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 266-266)