A Desire for the Mundane

In the ninth chapter of Numbers, we are given the instruction to keep the Pesach[1]. This is the first memorial of many. If we can trust Hillel II’s calendar, we have celebrated Pesach 3,328 times. The first remembrance was in the year 2348 and we are now in the year 5776. Sadly, there were a group of men who had to be sequestered from the Passover, and they didn’t like it.miracle-of-the-quail

But there were certain men, who were unclean by the dead body of a man, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day. And those men said unto him: “We are unclean by the dead body of a man; why are we to be kept back, so as not to bring the offering of Hashem in its appointed season among the children of Israel?[2]

These men were more than disappointed, they were distraught. They did not want to be cut off[3] from the rest of the community. It’s quite clear they were asking Moshe to find a way or to search for a loophole to allow these men (who performed the mitzvah of Chevra Kaddisha[4]) to also celebrate the Passover. Moshe gladly said, “Stay here, that I may hear what Hashem will command concerning you[5].”

I have no doubt that as their leader, Moshe was overjoyed by the men’s dilemma. These men got it. They understood, and they internalized their relationship with Hashem. People like this make leadership a joy.

Look back at the cheit haegel[6]. Moshe was heroic; he handled the idolatry at the feet of the golden calf in a very effective way. While it’s true he lost his temper, there is a sense that the people were worshipping Hashem — not in a way that is proper, but in the way they learned in Mitzrayim Egypt.

Hashem, why does your wrath grow hot against your people[7]?

It’s unclear why Moshe would ask such a question when the people were worshipping the golden calf when idolatry is one of the sins of Karet. It appears the people were worshipping G-d but using the idolatrous techniques they learned in Egypt. Moshe, while angry over their methodology, was able to see their intent appeared to be noble: they intended to worship Hashem. This is supported by Aaron’s words, “Tomorrow shall be a festival to Hashem[8]” and, “Israel! This is your G-d who brought you up out of the land of Egypt![9]” I am neither justifying their action nor excusing it. Their actions at the base of Sinai needs to be understood properly to see why Moshe was angry but not to the point advocating their destruction as he did with the rebellion of Korach.

Moshe advocated on our behalf, but we soon lost our advocate. Near the end of beha’alotecha[10], it says we desired meat. Now, the term used is the same term used for someone who is suffering an insatiable lust[11]. Why did we desire meat? Are we to believe there was a shortage of food on the hoof? To explore that possibility, we should revisit some passages relating to fairly recent events in the lives of Kol Israel:

  • But Hashem will make a distinction between the livestock of Israel and the livestock of Egypt, so that nothing of all that belongs to the people of Israel shall die[12].
  • Our livestock also must go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind, for we must take of them to serve Hashem our God, and we do not know with what we must serve Hashem until we arrive there[13].
  • A mixed multitude also went up with them, and very much livestock, both flocks and herds[14].
  • Why have you brought the assembly of Hashem into this wilderness, that we should die here, both our cattle and us[15]?

We had plenty of meat. We had, as the text says, “very much livestock.” It’s not meat we craved because we could eat meat at any point we desired. The caveat in that statement is that the meat we were eating was all korban. It was holy. It was korbanot.

But this meat was no longer satisfying.

Everything in their lives was bathed in holiness. Every animal was killed at the bizbeach[16], which made every morsel of meat holy. In order to eat a steak or pot roast, the person needed to be made holy and clean, a peace offering at the least (after standing in a line to get one’s turn at the mizbeach), was brought, the Cohen make the proper brachot over the animal, the man killed it, the cohen gathered the blood, and so on.

Everything inside and outside the marital tent was performed in a state of holiness.

These people were lusting after the mundane. They wanted to have a simple 4th-of-Judy barbecue with corn on the cob, and a few cool refreshing adult beverages without the need of holiness.

Moshe saw this and felt he failed as a leader.

Moses said to Hashem, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you have laid the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me saying, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me[17].”

At this point, Mishe Rabbeinu should have said, “I need some help,” but instead, he continued and said, “Just shoot me now[18].”

If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness[19].

He saw himself as a complete failure, and this broke his heart. He realized that idolatry made these people tick and this smothered his will to live. He was so distraught and filled with anguish that, according to Ohr Chaiim, he saw death as a better alternative to the pain of failure that stabbed at his heart.

Yeshua left Judea and departed for the Galilee and he had to pass through Samaria where he came upon the town of Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph[20]. He met upon a woman at a well… …The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Yeshua said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming. When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Yeshua said to her, “I, who speaks to you, am he[21].

Messiah was correct because for hundreds of years we were exiled from our land and were unable to worship on either mountain. However, He makes an excellent point: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” At the base of Sinai, we worshipped him in spirit but we failed to worship Him in truth. This polluted our worship and 3,000 persons fell. We, too, must be careful in our worship, for we are given the same edict: worship Him in spirit and in truth.

While there is wisdom in the idea that G-d is looking for our heart-motivated adherence to the Torah, if our heart is not into it, it’s still better to fake it and obey anyway. In time, our heart will follow our actions.

http://www.tikvatshalom.com

 

[1] Passover

[2] Number 9:6-7

[3] Heb. karet

[4] caring for the dead

[5] Numbers 9:8

[6] the sin of the golden calf

[7] Exodus 32:11

[8] Exodus 32:5

[9] Exodus 32:4

[10] Numbers 8:1 – 12:16

[11] Heb. [תַּאֲוָה הִתְאַוּוּ] transliteration: hit’avu ta’avah

[12] Exodus 9:4

[13] Exodus 10:26

[14] Exodus 12:38

[15] Numbers 20:4

[16] Altar

[17] Numbers 11:11-14

[18] Numbers 11:15

[19] Numbers 11:15

[20] Ref. Genesis 33

[21] John 4:19-26

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One thought on “A Desire for the Mundane

  1. Mr. Henson…this is a wonderful reminder to study, study, study…..to read over and over again the passages —lest we forget what Hashem is telling us. ( How easy it is to forget) …’Everything in their lives was bathed in holiness. Every animal was killed at the bizbeach[16], which made every morsel of meat holy. In order to eat a steak or pot roast, the person needed to be made holy and clean, a peace offering at the least (after standing in a line to get one’s turn at the mizbeach), was brought, the Cohen make the proper brachot over the animal, the man killed it, the Cohen gathered the blood, and so on.” It must have been both an awesome period of time, one we cannot today fathom!

    Like

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