Follow Your Heart?

Follow Your Heart? August 28, 2015

Each Israelite is commanded to fix a tassel at each of the four corners of his or her garments (Numbers 15:37-41). Within each tassel is a cord of blue. As Jacob Milgrom and others have argued, that cord is wool, which means that each Israelite wears slightly mixed clothing, which is holy clothing. 

Verses 39-40 explain the rational for the tassel:

A. It will be a tassel and you shall see it

B. and you shall remember all the commandments of Yahweh and do them.

C. And you will not seek out after your heart and after your eyes

C’. after which you played the harlot

B’. so that you will remember and do all my commandments

A’. And you shall be holy to your God.

The tassel is clearly a memorial, specifically a memorial of God’s commandments, a constant sartorial exhortation to do what God has commanded. By the same token, it is a warning against spiritual prostitution. Seeing the tassel, the Israelite is supposed to renounce the temptation to seek other gods.

Even if the passage were not chiastic, the sequence from the clause in C to the clause in C’ would be striking. Yahweh doesn’t mention idols directly. He warns Israel not to seek “your heart and your eyes.” We might interpolate “an object of devotion in your heart, an object of delight to your eyes,” but that would weaken the force of the passage. Idolatry is portrayed here not as devotion to another god, but as the pursuit of one’s own heart and eyes. To worship idols is to be incurvatus in se ipsum; more specifically, it is to be incurvatus in corde suo, incurvatus in oculis eius

What we devote our hearts to is not really the idol, but our heart that we devote; what dazzles is not the idol but the inside of our own eyeballs.

This self-worship is described as harlotry, erotic attraction to the thoughts of our own hearts and the sights of our own eyes. Idolatry is spiritual masturbation.

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