parsha Beha’alotecha

      2 Comments on parsha Beha’alotecha

Well, and this week’s parsha is Beha’alotecha; for those Gentle Readers who missed services this morning for one reason or another, here’s a quick highlight. I’ll pick up at Numbers eleven, four, page 614 in your Hertz Chumash.

See, the Israelites were in the desert, eating manna, and they got bored with manna, because they didn’t have anything but manna for ever so long, manna manna manna, and manna’s fine and all, and it’s the color of bdellium, which is nice, but it ain’t meat. So the people of Israel whined about it, going on and on, saying, “In Egypt we ate fish all the time, and cucumbers, and melons, and leeks, and onions, and garlic.” (No points for saying ‘Skip a bit, Brother’ here.) And they wouldn’t shut up about it. Really. And it was driving Moses nuts.

So Moses talks to the Lord, and he starts whining. ‘Why me? Am I their mother? Am I supposed to carry them to the Promised Land—which You promised them, O Lord, not me—and feed them from my breasts, which, if you don’t remember, are not equipped for it? They want meat, and where am I supposed to get meat?

‘Oh Lord, just kill me now.’

And the Lord responds, saying, ‘You want meat? Is that it? Meat? I’ll give you meat. Oh, you’ll have meat, all right. You had meat in Egypt? I’ll give you meat. I’ll give you plenty. You’ll have meat coming out your noses (Heb: ad asher yeitzay m’apchem). You won’t be able to stand the sight of meat. OK? OK?

Now, if there’s a lesson here (other than ‘get out of the kitchen; it’ll be ready when it’s ready’), it’s that not everything in Scripture makes the Lord look good. I mean, the people Israel look pretty bad, whiny and petty and all, but then the people Israel are used to it, because they are not a well-behaved people. Moses looks bad, whining to the Lord, asking for an early death. Moses usually looks pretty good, but he has his bad days; the scripture does a pretty good job of letting us know that Moses just isn’t divine. He’s great, all right, but he’s far from perfect. But what I find fascinating is that the Lord comes off really poorly, here, too. He clearly didn’t think through the manna thing properly, and He blames the people for ingratitude, and then He snaps at Moses, who is just trying to help, after all.

It feels like it’s near the end of a long road trip, with Papa and Mama in the front of the minivan having just about enough of the whole thing. It seems like everybody is just about ready to turn this covenant around. And that’s Scripture. So if you’re having a bad day, give yourself a break; the Lord gets cranky too. And if you’re having a good day, save this one up for a bad day, because you’ll have one sooner or later.

And remember, the Lord really did provide meat, after all. And he got Moses some assistants, so he could take some time off, which is important, too.


2 thoughts on “parsha Beha’alotecha

  1. Jed

    Did I ever ask you about Jung’s Answer to Job? My father told me about it back in high school, but I never got around to actually reading it. So my impression may be wrong, but I gather that Jung talked about (as one web page puts it) “God as a morally evolving personality.” Which isn’t quite the same thing you’re talking about, but it seemed relevant.

  2. Michael

    I haven’t read the Jung bit myself, but I’ve certainly heard plenty of analysis of the moral development of God from Old Testament to New Testament (or the moral development of human society or human understanding in an isomorphic fashion). While we may think that our notions of equality, slavery, justice, and other moral issues have changed tremendously over the past 4000 years, I believe that’s a tremendous conceit. The progress we’ve made is interesting in a local sense only.


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