Levine’s scholarly commentary on Leviticus offers a lucid and detailed treatment of the sacred text. The commentary contains a great many amplifications on the text beyond the line-by-line analysis, including discussion of the laws of Kashrut, the pursuit of holiness, the principles of land tenure, and more. Also included is a generous introduction, an essay on Leviticus in the ongoing Jewish tradition, eleven excursuses with footnotes, and helpful charts.
This resource is available as part of the JPS Tanakh Commentary Collection (11 volumes).
“The rituals prescribed in the Torah regularly utilize the category of impurity for dealing with conditions that are life threatening. In ancient usage, ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ correspond to what in modern health care would be referred to as immune and susceptible, respectively. Although the new mother was a source of joy to the community, and her new child a blessing, she generated anxiety—as did all aspects of fertility and reproduction in ancient society. The childbearing mother was particularly vulnerable, and her child was in danger too, since infant mortality was widespread in premodern societies. By declaring the new mother impure, susceptible, the community sought to protect and shelter her.” (Page 249)
“‘Burnt offering’ is a functional translation of Hebrew ʿolah, which actually derives from the verb ʿ-l-h, ‘to ascend.’ This type of sacrifice was to be consumed in its entirety (exclusive of the hide) by the altar fire. This could account for its name: The offering may have been called ʿolah because its flames and smoke ‘ascended’ to heaven.” (Page 5)
“Ancient man seldom distinguished between ‘sin’ and ‘impurity.’ In man’s relation to God, all sinfulness produced impurity. All impurity, however contracted, could lead to sinfulness if not attended to, and failure to deal properly with impurity aroused God’s anger. The point is that the requirement to present a sin offering does not necessarily presume any offense on the part of the person so obligated. This offering was often needed solely to remove impurity. Childbirth, for example, was not sinful—it involved no violation of law—yet a sin offering was required.” (Page 74)
Baruch Levine is the Skirball Professor of Bible and Ancient Near Eastern Studies at New York University, and has also served as Guest Professor at the Hebrew University and at Ben Gurion University. He is the Editor of the Israel Exploration Journal and a member of the Archaeological Council of the Israel Exploration Society.
The Jewish Publication Society of Americawas founded in Philadelphia in 1888 to provide the children of Jewish immigrants to America with books about their heritage in the language of the New World. As the oldest publisher of Jewish titles in the English language, the mission of JPS is to enhance Jewish culture by promoting the dissemination of religious and secular works of exceptional quality, in the United States and abroad, to all individuals and institutions interested in past and contemporary Jewish life.
Over the years JPS has issued a body of works for all tastes and needs. Its many titles include biographies, histories, art books, holiday anthologies, books for young readers, religious and philosophical studies, and translations of scholarly and popular classics. It is perhaps known best for its famous JPS Tanakh, the translation of the Hebrew Bible in English from the original Hebrew.