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Maps and Meaning

Levitical Models for Contemporary Care

by Nancy H. Wiener and Jo Hirschamnn

Publication Year: 2014

Maps and Meaning is rooted in the authors’ experience as clergy and chaplains and is relevant to those looking for a fresh perspective on biblical narratives related to the role of the priest, patients, soldiers, and others who spend time “outside the camp.”

Drawing on diverse fields, from neuroscience to anthropology, the authors consider the geographical, interpersonal, temporal, and spiritual transitions individuals experience when they move “in” and “out of the camp” and the impact their time outside the camp has on family and community. They offer a unique perspective on self-care for caregivers of different disciplines who negotiate these transitions in their work. And they explore the lives and transitions of patients and returning veterans. 

Drawing on contemporary explorations of stigma, the authors raise communal questions related to healthcare, returning veterans, and incarcerated people. They propose a societal approach that embraces the inevitability of life’s ebbs and flow and that draws maps to facilitate these journeys.

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Claudia Setzer

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pp. ix-xii

The Torah is compared to water, sustaining life, never running dry, a constant well from which to draw up new insights. We relate to the colorful narratives of Genesis and respond to the powerful liberationist themes of Exodus. The prophets call us to social justice. The language and imagery of these works have infused and sustained some of the great movements in American culture—abolitionism, first-wave feminism, and the civil rights movement....

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Neil Gillman

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pp. xiii-xvi

In a recent radio interview, the eminent Nobel Prize–winning neuroscientist Eric Kandel was asked to speculate about new directions for his discipline in the decades to come. This was his response: “I envision a multiplicity of fields branching out from neuroscience, fields such as neuro-aesthetics, neuro-ethics, neuroanthropology. . . .” To which I responded, speaking to myself as I listened in my living room, “and neuro-theology.”...

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pp. 1-6

To study in chevruta, with a partner, is a mainstay of Jewish life. Over the years, both of us have enjoyed the fruits of chevruta study, but never with the intensity and creativity that led to this book. Five years ago, our mutual curiosity about Jewish teachings that might inform contemporary pastoral caregiving led us to embark on an exploration of biblical texts about sickness and healing. Each study session gave rise to an ever-expanding number of questions and...

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1. “Alert and Oriented” in the Hebrew Bible and Contemporary Life

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pp. 7-26

In emergency rooms, at hospital bedsides, at nurses’ stations, at accident scenes, and in theaters of war, medical staff use a common language to describe patients’ mental status. The shorthand “A&O” indicates that someone is alert and oriented, and medical teams refine this information by describing the number of axes of orientation a patient displays. Oriented times three (which is abbreviated as “O...

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2. Mapping Human Communities

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pp. 27-50

Years ago, some atlases took the form of books filled with multilayered, translucent maps. The base map provided the earliest known contours of the country. Subsequent superimposed layers showed how the contours changed over time and indicated topographical features, natural resources, precipitation rates, and the like. This multilayered presentation enhanced the reader’s understanding of the country’s interrelated, yet distinct, aspects. In...

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3. The Levitical Priest as a Guide for the Way

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pp. 51-78

In this chapter, we take as our starting point the modern view of clergy as professionals who straddle three roles: priest, prophet, and pastor. Through these three roles, clergy help people connect to themselves, communities, and God. Although the origins of this model are unclear, it is widely invoked by contemporary clergy. Across denominational and religious spectra, seminaries train would-be...

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4. Empathy, Overload, and the Ash Heap: The Unmoored Caregiver

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pp. 79-102

With his threefold role, the levitical priest was a Moreh Derekh who accompanied community members along their physical, emotional, and spiritual journeys. In the last chapter, we explored some of the parallels between the levitical priest and contemporary clergy. In this chapter, we expand our lens to include all trained, professional caregivers. Clergy represent but one type of professional caregiver,...

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5. Outside the Camp: Patients and Their Loved Ones

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pp. 103-148

Drawing on her own experience of living with cancer, Susan Sontag opens her essay “Illness as Metaphor” with these words. With her image of dual citizenship, Sontag evokes the experience of travel, reminding us that most of us, at some time in our lives, must pick up our second passport and journey to the “kingdom of the sick.” Sontag describes the places where sick people reside as discrete geographic...

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6. The War Camp and the Returning Warrior

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pp. 149-190

In this chapter, we turn to the book of Numbers to explore stories that shed light on military life, the trauma of war, the challenges of reentry for demobilized warriors, and the pervasiveness of war themes in civilian life. Following Leviticus’s exploration of priestly and cultic life, Numbers picks up where Exodus leaves off: after crossing the Red Sea, the Israelites spent two years at the encampment in the Sinai, readying themselves for battle and conquest. The...

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7. The Priest, Prophet, and Pastor in Each of Us

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pp. 191-218

Primo Levi, philosopher and Auschwitz survivor, wrote these words. Like the levitical conception of tumah, his words acknowledge the persistent reality of “impurities” within the fabric of life. In Leviticus, powerful transformations involving the passage of time and the use of ritual allow for the integration of illness, death, and war into the lives of individuals and the community. Primo Levi similarly proposes...


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pp. 219-222


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pp. 223-234

Index of Subjects

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pp. 235-258

Index of Authors

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pp. 259-262

Index of Biblical and Rabbinic Sources

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pp. 263-265

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781451487541
E-ISBN-10: 1451487541
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451482942
Print-ISBN-10: 1451482949

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2014