On the tail end of a bad cold, and my mind wandering in all sots of directions, I thought this musing from 5760 for Bo would be most apropos. I would remind readers that at the time I was a student in the Divinity program at Vanderbilt University, and also in the midst of my second marriage, to a talented songwriter. It's odd how one grows used to referring to things like that. I'd have never expected to be age 50 and twice divorced. Yet more disjunctions and convergences, like the ones in this musing. And many more to come, I am sure. Enjoy.
This week, for the first time, in quite some time, I present a truly random and meandering musing. Somehow, it seems right.
The other morning I was on my way to school. On the radio, NPR's morning edition was playing an independent piece by an author who had decided to give up e-mail. I remember thinking to myself that, as noble as this sounds, it's probably not a brilliant idea, and I doubt I could ever do such a thing. For me, the net is bringing about convergence. People who never communicated before are doing so. Sibling and friends long out of touch are renewing relationships. Yes, it is somewhat impersonal, but I have always believed that more than just simple electrons can be carried along wires and cables. That certain essence that makes us who we are is something that can also be transmitted, and it helps keep the seemingly impersonal from becoming truly impersonal. But I digress.
Just as the story ended, I was stopping in a long line of cars at a traffic symbol. Looking out my windshield, I spied a small bird walking up the dotted line between the two lanes of traffic, strutting as if knew exactly what is was doing, where it was going, and oblivious to artificial world around it. That bird couldn't give one whit about email, or cars, or traffic, or red lights. For that one, brief moment, I began to wish that I could be like that bird. Disjunction - of the bird's reality and mine.
Convergence of the radio story and my thoughts.
The other evening, I was talking with some friends about the state of Jewish education. One of the topics that came up was the Birthright Israel program.
There was a sense, among a few of us, that, as valuable a program at this is, imagine that same money being put in the Jewish religious education of our youth. This morning, at a weekly Divinity School coffee hour, a fellow classmate, a young Xtian man, asked me what I thought about the Birthright Israel program. He said that is sure was a lot of money being poured into that program, and he wondered how Jews, especially those involved in education, felt about it. Convergence. I told him about how significant the Israel experience can be, but that it was no magic elixir to assure that our youth would develop a good, strong sense of Jewish identity. I asked him what he thought of the program. He said he figured it was just a way to sway young potential voters to the Israeli cause. Disjunction. (He may have a point, and that may indeed be one purpose, but I'd like to live with the naive view of the motivation here.)
We are in the midst of reading the story of the plagues and the exodus. This week, my wife and I happen to have been in the recording studio working on a song about Pesach and the importance of teaching the story to our children.
Our Jewish recording engineer and friend remarked on how appropriate it was to be working on this song while reading Bo. Convergence. As those of you who have ever done this kind of work know, it's quite easy to get tired of one song after working on it so intensely. So, as I read Bo, I find myself a little weary of the tale. Disjunction.
We read of the plagues. Each time, G"d tells Moshe what new problem shall be G"d's instrument to plague the Egyptians. Go tell Pharaoh that I will do thus and such... Each time, the same sequence. Convergence. Then, the locusts.
Something's a kilter here. This time, the Torah does not report G"d's words to Moshe. It is only in Moshe's statement that we learn that this time G"d has ordained locusts. Disjunction. (For reference, look at these passages in Exodus: 7:17, 26, 8:12, 16, 9:1-3,8-9, 18, 10:21 and compare with 10:1-6.)
Plagues 1-7 and 9 are all first announced to Moshe by G"d. But not the 8th plague. Not the locusts. And not the last plague, either. (Look at 11:1 and 4.)I can understand G"d not wanting to really tell Moshe what the last plague was to be. It's a pretty horrible thought to contemplate. But G"d obviously did, for Moshe proceeds to relate G"d's words. But Torah did not put these words down on text as being said by G"d. We have only Moshe stating that G"d told him to say these words. G"d later demands Israel consecrate all its first born to G"d, perhaps to provide some balance for having to have taken all the first born of the Egyptians in order to achieve the desired goals.
Having to do so was probably a rather bitter bill for G"d to swallow, just as was the great flood in Noah's time.
Assuming that the wording of Torah is deliberate, why is it that only these two times Moshe relates the words of G"d regarding the plagues but the text does not first have G"d telling Moshe what to say and what the plague shall be? Disjunction.
We move nicely along in the narrative of the plagues until the tenth. The narrative builds almost to a climax, towards convergence of the wishes of the Israelites, of G"d, and the end of Egyptian intransigence. Then, boom, all of a sudden, the story stops to lay out the rules for the Pesach festival.
Tu B'Shevat is coming up next week. So this week I prepared a Tu B'Shevat issue for Bim Bam. A part of me got to wondering about the imminence of this holiday, which is ostensibly about nature in many ways, and how the plague of locusts is about animals that devour all in sight rendering the land useless. And about that little bird amongst the traffic. Convergences. And yet more. Shevat is a "first" month, for the reckoning of tithes and trees.
In Bo, we read of yet another "first" month, of Aviv. And the taking of a lamb on the 10th of that month. The 10th of Aviv. 10 plagues. 10 commandments. Convergences.
So many thoughts. So many ideas. So many questions. Disjunction. But, as I read and re-read Bo, I am overwhelmed by that feeling of linkage. Of trying to think and act as if it were I, myself, who were being freed from slavery in Egypt. I connect with my ancestors. This is my story. Convergence.
May yours be a Shabbat of delightful disjunctions and convergences.
©2000 and 2006 by Adrian A. Durlester
Some previous musings on the same parasha:
Bo 5765-Four Strikes and You're...Well...
Bo 5764-Keretz Ani
Bo 5763 -Good Loser
Bo 5761-Cover of Darkness
Bo 5762-Teach Your Children Well
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