Volume 13, 2019
A Reading of Levinas’s “Promised Land or Permitted Land”
This article focuses on a Talmudic lecture Levinas delivered in 1965. Its long central section is an extended reading of most of that lecture’s images and ideas. Its frame, however, treats what does and does not change in Levinas’s conception of the State of Israel between the early ’60s and the early ’80s. At issue here are two other texts: a short but important paragraph from the 1961 lecture published as “Messianic Texts,” and the interview with Malka and Finkielkraut that took place in 1982, shortly after the massacres at Sabra and Shatila. The gist of my closing argument is that while the structure of the understanding of Israel he outlined in 1961 does not change, it is developed very differently in the 1965 lecture and the 1982 interview. I try finally to account for this difference. In the meantime, the long analysis of 1965’s “Promised Land or Permitted Land” offers a novel account of Levinas’s hermeneutic, an account that might perhaps be applied to other Talmudic lectures.