Monday 21 October 2013

From the Deep - Waking Leviathan - Job 3

Job 3:7-8
7] May that night be barren; may no shout of joy be heard in it.
8] Let the cursers of day curse it, who are prepared to rouse up Leviathan.
ז הִנֵּה הַלַּיְלָה הַהוּא יְהִי גַלְמוּד אַל-תָּבוֹא רְנָנָה בוֹ
ח יִקְּבֻהוּ אֹרְרֵי-יוֹם הָעֲתִידִים עֹרֵר לִוְיָתָן 

I could write a whole book on mythical themes in the book of Job (and perhaps one day I will) but for the sake of this blog I will restrict myself to 5 posts - one each on Job 3, 7, 26 and 40-41, followed by a big picture look at the book as a whole.

By the third chapter, Job has lost everything he has - his money, his children, his wife, his health - and after seven days of sitting in silence with his three friends, he now opens his mouth to curse the day on which he was born: "Let that day be darkness;" he declares (Job 3:4) "let not God inquire after it from above, neither let the light shine upon it."

It's in this context that Job first mentions the primordial monster the Leviathan, mentioning an unspecified group who in the future are ready to wake the creature from its rest (more on this next week).

But what do we learn from the idea that some seek to wake Leviathan?

This verse had a profound impact on my own writings in my Kabbalistic fantasy novel 'Radiance'. I was inspired by the idea that there was a group whose goal it was to raise up Leviathan, the same group who curse days and turn them to darkness. This coalesced with my vision of the Sitra Achra as trying to upturn creation, raise the forces of tohu and vohu to return the world to its state of primordial state of formlessness, undoing that first act of creation that separated light from darkness.

But I don't really believe in supernatural demonic forces working to undo creation.

What I do believe in however, is human evil. I believe there are people who could be included in those 'prepared to rouse Leviathan', who seek to tear down civilisation and ordered society. Luckily, I also think such people are extremely rare. But we all have such tendencies, the spirit of the perverse within us that seeks to break the rules just because they're there, or to tear down 'the Man' just because its the Man. Whenever we seek to tear down without thought of building up, then we can be counted among those who are ready to wake Leviathan, and we should be cautious about what we are about to unleash.

We have seen that the Bible does not have a two-dimensional view of chaos. We have read about God's opposition and slaying of the monster, as well as God playing with Leviathan as a pet - so when I say that tearing down the establishment is waking the Leviathan, I don't necessarily mean to indicate that it is a negative thing. Chaos is, I would argue, a necessary aspect of creation. But we are nevertheless playing with monsters, and it needs to be done with care and thought.

"Some men just want to watch the world burn" Alfred tells Bruce Wayne in 'The Dark Knight', referring to the near-unstoppable force of chaos that is the Joker. Thankfully, the real world has few super villains, who seek mindless destruction and chaos, but Job 3 warns us that we can still become one of those seeking to rouse Leviathan, tearing down order without being careful of the monster we could be unleashing on the world.

Next week on 'From the Deep' - Job 7 - Watching Leviathan.

'From the Deep' has been made possible by Nishma, a summer of learning in the JTS Beit Midrash.

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