[First posted on The Times of Israel: http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/emor-repetitive-repetitions/]
Ibn Ezra Leviticus: Emor
“The mantram becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal. Each repetition has a new meaning, carrying you nearer and nearer to God.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Since the invention of literary critics, (which came about on the very heels of the invention of authors), there has been much ink spilled complaining about repetition in ones writing. Perhaps the reader sees it as a direct attack on their intellect. “We got it the first time,” they must think.
The Bible is replete with repetitions. Perhaps one of the most common phrases that one sees over and over again, (besides “And God spoke to Moses, saying…”), is “I am God” that punctuates a plethora of diverse and unrelated commandments.
I think to myself and say to Him: “Um, with all due respect God, we know You are God. We didn’t think it was anybody else. We don’t suspect You of having an identity crisis, so what’s with the constant deluge of “I am God” throughout Your book?”
Ibn Ezra on Leviticus 22:33 comes to the rescue. He explains that “I am God” takes us back to the First Commandment of the famed Ten. The First Commandment is where God sets the foundation of our belief system. “You must believe in Me.” If we don’t have the basic belief in God, then the other commandments lack force or meaning. “I am God” is the reason we do the commandments. That is why He needs to accentuate many commandments with this reminder. That is why He punctuates various commands to link the performance of His will with the intrinsic belief in Him. We can never forget that “He is God.” It bears repeating. Constantly.
Despite literary and biblical critics, some things are worth hearing over and over and over.
To all the teachers who took the pains to repeat themselves.