We are a stubborn lot. It's not just our free will. There's something else that's innate which drives us to be rebellious, to transgress, to repeat the same mistakes over and over. And over.
Now, our Creator, being b'tzelem anashim (see my previous musing for Korach 5764 of the same name) is wont to occasionally get a little upset with this behavior. Thus we have incidents like the flood of Noah's generation, various plagues set upon us in our journey through the wilderness, (according to the prophets and rabbis) our exiles from the land, and, of course, the wholesale destruction of Korach and his followers that we read about this week, by consuming fire and ground swallowing.
Quite often, when we find mention of such chastisements, or the threat thereof, it is followed by a promise of G''d's everlasting love and kindness to us, even though we continue to transgress. Such is the case in our haftarah, from I Samuel chapter 12. Near the end, Shmuel says to the people that G''d has given them the King they asked for (Shaul) and in vs. 14 & 15 uses the by now classic formulation:
14. If you will revere the L''rd, worship Him, (sic) and obey Him (sic) and will not flout the L''rd's command, if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the L''rd your G''d, [well and good.]
15. But if you do not obey the L''rd and flout the L''rd's command, the hand of the L''rd will strike you as it did your fathers.
Sidebar: Notice the bracketed ending of verse 14. The actual verse doesn't really say that-it's just implied, rather as if the phrase ended in an ellipsis... .Maybe this is the ancient equivalent of "yada, yada, yada" ?
Shmuel then prays to G''d to send rain to help the wheat harvest, but suggests the people use this time of rain and thunder to think about what they have done in asking for a king. It doesn't take long until the people ask Shmuel to intercede on their behalf:
"Intercede for your servants with the L''rd your G''d that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins the wickedness of asking for a king." (I Samuel 12:19, JPS)
Sidebar: Notice the people say *your G''d* and not "our G''d." Oddly enough, there's a similar textual issue a few verses back, in 12:5. When Shmuel declares before all that he has not wronged anyone them, not stolen from any of them, the text, usually translated as "They responded, "He is!" (or We witness it to be closer to the Hebrew) actually says, in the Hebrew, vayomer eid, "he said, [witnessed]"
Yet More Sidebar: I've written in these musings about the anti-monarchal and also anti-urban bias one can find in Torah. Here, the people clearly know that asking their True King for a human king was a great sin. I often wonder if G''d acquiesced with the intent to play a little game of "gotcha" with us. I can just imagine G''d's thought s : "They want a king? I'll give 'em a king. I'll give them lots of kings, and each one more rotten than his predecessor. That'll teach 'em."
But I digress. And then we get the expected response:Shmuel says:
"Have no fear. You have, indeed, done all those wicked things. Do not, however, turn away from the L''rd, but serve the L''rd with all your heart....For the sake of His (sic) great name, the L''rd will never abandon His (sic) people, seeing that the L''rd undertook to make you His (sic) people." I Samuel 12:20, 22. v. 21 omitted. JPS)
As we know, it's possible to play on G''d's vanity (aha-do I hear echoes of my "b'tzelem anashim" theory) to keep G''d from destroying people. Our patriarchs do it, and Moshe rabbeinu does it. And you can hear echoes of it in what Shmuel says. "For the sake of His (sic) great name" could mean, idiomatically, vanity, or pride, or something of the sort.
And when I started out to write this musing, that's the path I was going to travel. It's not where I wound up.
I am beginning to see this all in a different light. A parent has joy and pride for a child, even with all the wrongs he/she may have done. Nachas. Parents have an investment in the child. They've put in effort, love, caring, and so much more. Need that continuing love have any deeper cause than the child simply being their child? And if so for human parent and child, how much more so for G''d and G''d's creations?
G''d is just going to "tough it out" with us and continue to love and care for us, no matter how many times we go astray. Yes, it's taking a long time, but let's not think in human concepts of time. After all, many parents do so for their children throughout their own lives.
If you have to give it a name, a cause, well, for me, saying that G''d" has an "investment" in us is fine, although I don't think any word can truly capture this parental love. Sure, like all parents, G''d can occasionally get out of sorts. And yes, like many parents, sometimes there are side motivations that come into play: vanity, jealousy, living vicariously, etc. Yet, in the end, it is this unnamable bond that produces this never-ending love.
I don't know about you, but I feel better knowing that, stubborn as we may get, G''d won't totally give up on us. At least I hope not...
©2006 by Adrian A. Durlester
Korah 5765 - Stones and
Pitchers and Glass Houses
Korach 5764-B'tzelem Anashim
Korach 5758/62-Camp Rebellion
Korach 5761-Loose Ends
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