OK, time to write another musing. What's the parasha this week? Oh, yes-Shelakh-Lekha. Spies. What new insight can I find this year? I started to read, but it was late, and my eyelids grew heavy, my mind cloud...
The thought came, unbidden, into my mind, and I was taken aback by it. I couldn't believe I was actually thinking what I was thinking. Could the Torah be involved in a cover-up? Does Shelakh-Lekha contain the Watergate of ancient Jewish history?
Gd instructs Moshe to send out the twelve men to "check out" the territory they were about to occupy as part of Gd's promise. The Torah goes to great length to praise the two "spies" who saw the glass as half-full, Joshua and Caleb. And it depicts with scorn the ten who saw the glass half-empty, and the rabble (which was pretty much everybody else, I think) who accepted their negative reports and complained to Moshe.
So then what happens? Gd says, "OK, I will give you the land as promised...BUT...ain't none of you adults gonna see it except Joshua and Caleb here, because y'all doubted me and whined and complained. So go head the other way and wander around this here desert fer 40 years! That'll teach you varmints!"
Now isn't that convenient? Gd doesn't have to take on the Jebusites, Canaanites, Amalekites (chronology-what chronology-since when is Torah in chronological order?), Whatever-other funky-name-ites, etc. and clear the way for the Israelites to go take over the land promised to them. Nope. Gd gets an extra 40 years before that miracle has to be accomplished. You don't suspect Gd was a little pooped out from the effort over the last few months, do you? All those plagues, splitting the reed sea, manna, quail and other desert miracles, and carving out those tablets and giving the Torah to Moshe and the Israelites, all accompanied by the biggest sound and light show ever. Why, I'll bet Gd hadn't been so worn out since creation! So maybe, just maybe, helping out with getting the Israelites into the land past all those fierce tribes was a bit too much at the time. And on a Gd scale of time, 40 years seems about right for getting a little refreshed before tackling more miracles. Right?
Which means it was all a setup, and maybe even a cover-up. Could Gd possibly reveal to the Israelites that even Gd needs a little time to rest between miracles? Would that portray Gd as limited, weak, vulnerable? Is that a Gd that the Israelites could accept?
(As it happens, I think the answer should be yes-after all, what did Gd do on the 7th day? So we know from the very beginning that "even Gd had to take a nap, and called that nap Shabbat." With thanks to Karen Daniel for that wonderful image from her lullaby "Shabbat Shalom.")
However, as I've said before, Gd often recognizes that human aren't always the sharpest knives in the drawer. Perhaps Gd (or Moshe rabbeinu?) figured that it was too risky to try and help the Israelites fight their way into possession of Canaan while so worn out-for there was a chance many Israelites would be lost in the struggle, and they would begin to doubt Gd even more than they were already inclined to doubt Gd. In fact, the unthinkable might happen, and a pooped-out Gd might be unable to insure victory for the Israelites and they would be driven out-leaving Gd with an unkept promise.
Lucky for Gd, the Israelites have always been eager to provide a handy excuse for being the cause of their own problems. Sometimes, the Israelites seem like a machine whose only purpose is to provide rationalizations for unkept promises. As I said before, how "convenient."
"You people been bad! I'm gonna punish y'all. No milk and honey for you!" "Why?" the people respond. "Are you not Gd, slow to anger, abundant in mercy and loving kindness, to the thousandth generation and all that stuff?" "Yep. That's me! But y'all lost faith in me-only Joshua and Caleb here knew I would protect you and insure victory. I can't bring faithless people into the land I promised your ancestors. Nope. Go wonder for forty years" (And, under Gd's breath..."yeah, and give me a little break, you ferkakhte Jews!")
But now we can tell it all. Maybe I can sell the story to The Star, Globe and National Enquirer! Maybe I can even get the Washington Post or NY Times to investigate and expose this cover-up. Joshuagate, we can call it. Ah, I can see the headlines now. "SMOKING GUN DISCOVERED! GD REALLY ISN'T OMNIPOTENT!" "DECEPTION IN THE DESERT!" "EXTRA! JOSHUA AND CALEB BOUGHT OFF BY GD WITH TICKET TO PROMISED LAND!" "JEWS WANDER FOR FORTY YEARS WHILE GD TAKES FORTY WINKS!" "DNA TESTS ON SHROUD OF TURIN PROVE MARY WAS NO VIRGIN!" (Whoops, how'd that get in there. Well, you know those crazy tabloids.)
Oh, no. A limited Gd. A deceptive Gd. Oh wait, that's nothing knew. But my faith! I need Gd to be my rock, my redeemer. Help! Help!
.... and then I woke up. Cold sweat drenched my body. Oh horror! What a dream. Gd involved in a cover-up! And me responsible for exposing it. Oy! Well, better get back to reading the parasha so I can write that musing. Where was I? Let's see. Spies. Ten bad reports. Two good reports. The Israelites lose faith, whine and complain. Gd says "ok, no promised land for you. Go wonder for 40 years in the wilderness." But wait a minute. Isn't this Gd, slow to anger, merciful, abundant in loving kindness? Isn't anything possible for Gd?
A thought came, unbidden, into my mind, and I was taken aback by it. I couldn't believe I was actually thinking what I was thinking. Could the Torah be involved in a cover-up? Does Shelakh-Lekha contain the Watergate of ancient Jewish history?...
©2001 by Adrian A. Durlester
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