Thursday, January 28, 2016

Parshat Chukat, 4rd Portion, (Numbers 20:14-21), 7/13/2016

Edom Refuses Passage
14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: “Thus says your brother Israel: You know all the hardship that we have met: 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt a long time. And the Egyptians dealt harshly with us and our fathers. 16 And when we cried to the Lord, he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt. And here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink water from a well. We will go along the King’s Highway. We will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.” 18 But Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through, lest I come out with the sword against you.” 19 And the people of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the highway, and if we drink of your water, I and my livestock, then I will pay for it. Let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.” 20 But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against them with a large army and with a strong force. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.

So we tell our sad story and we say we’ll be good and we won’t stray, that we’ll just pass right through your land and we’ll pay for any water we use. And yet there is no mercy for the Israelites. Sometimes our path is easy, and sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes we beg and get what we want, and other times we do not. God helped the Israelites get out of Egypt (and one might ask why an all powerful God needed ten plagues to accomplish the escape). But life is hard and God is not making it easier.

We learn from this that we do meet obstacles. Mighty obstacles. Undeserved obstacles. What should be a short journey becomes a long journey? Sounds like I’m talking about life. What is the point of all this? Some people can’t take it and others thrive on challenges. Hopefully we learn from these difficult times. We grow up... or at least we try.

If we think of the Israelites as chosen people, we have to ask if their God is simply sadistic, making this journey so difficult. I think not. We are more our own people. We dug our own grave so to speak.

My friend N said that God punishes people for being human. Like killing Aaron’s sons because they were a little zealous, or not letting Moses into the promised land because he was a little zealous, or not letting the Israelites take the most direct path (because they are a little zealous).

Really, this is not God with puppet strings doing all this. If that were so, we’d quickly have to condemn him/her for creating such undeserved atrocities, from exemplary people having debilitating illnesses to millions of people being slaughtered by ruthless dictators.

Actually I’m starting to read the Torah to suggest that we aren’t “punished.” Rather life is full of trials and tribulations... we have breaks every once in a while, but it ain’t easy. Moses doesn’t get to the promised land because that is what happens in life. We don’t get there. Maybe our children get a little closer than we did. But in the end, we are Sisyphus, pushing the boulder up just to see it come down. All we can do is pluck the strawberry and enjoy it when we can.

1 comment:

Thanks for commenting. One cannot study the Torah alone.