My inheritance is a mixed bag. I am one woman’s biological daughter and another woman’s adopted child. I am a descendant of the Mexican families who populated California and also the Irish who suffered a great potato famine once. My age reveals that I am more Latina than I thought given my penchant for icons and lighting vigil candles when I pray. I even have a statue of Mother Mary in my living room. I am also more Catholic than I thought as I’m drawn to the Eucharist offered daily, the holy water on my forehead and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer in unison.
As I go forward, I go back.
This is the tension of legacy. We move forward but remember back, and so our trajectory is set.
In the early days of Israel there were discussions about how to move forward, how to construct a life outside of slavery in the land of promise. The priests spoke about how to be holy in this new life, and it involved everything from how you ploughed your fields to how you sewed your garments together. A holy people would need to worship in right ways but also work outside the temple precincts in right ways. The book of Leviticus outlines it all in great, pain-staking detail.
“Love your neighbor as yourself” is first mentioned in Leviticus 19, in the thick of the holiness code. Holiness, according to the priest, includes loving yourself and loving your neighbor in the same way. This kind of love would set Israel apart from other nations. People are often fairly skilled at loving their own family or clan, but don’t aim much beyond. This command stretches Israelites to love their families and their neighbors, making the circle wider. This will distinguish them among the nations.