By special request, and also somewhat in the spirit of Adar and Purim, a redux musing from 5760 this week.
Bugs Bunny and Roadrunner. Tennessee and Chumley. Rocky and Bullwinkle. Beavis and Butthead. Cow and Chicken. And now Cartoon Network proudly presents the latest new hit cartoon series [fanfare and drum roll}:
It's the Urim and Thummim show! Starring those two wacky, lovable, and totally unpredictable predictors, those irregular oracles, those indecisive deciders, a couple a regular 'old rocks....Urim & Thummim. Also starring Aaron as High Priest. With Nadav, Avihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. With Moshe Rabbenu as Aaron's wacky, obsessed brother who talks with you-know-who. Special guest appearance by you-know-who him/herself.
Sound bizarre? Out of place? Inappropriate? Well, that's exactly how I feel whenever I am reading along in Parashat Tetzaveh and I get to Sh'mot 28:30. That Gd should take all this trouble to describe the priestly vestments is a little anal perhaps, but understandable. That Gd is particular about how Gd's priests are ordained, or the rituals performed, or the decor and arrangement of the tabernacle in which Gd is to dwell when Gd is with the people is not surprising. Here is a Gd that knows what he/she wants. A Gd who thinks ahead enough to play a game of heart-hardening with Pharaoh, to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, who promises and delivers to the Israelites, to Abraham and his descendants (even remembering his/her promise to Hagar!) A Gd who sends dreams to people so that they may know the future. A Gd who allows evil to happen so that the good Gd knows will come of it does indeed come. A Gd who works miracles, created the universe, destroyed all life on earth except for one lucky family, parted the Reed Sea, brought forth water form rocks and manna from heaven. A Gd who imparts at Sinai the entirety of Torah, written and Oral, to the Israelites at Sinai.
And this Gd, in our holy Torah, says to put these "decision-making" stones or other devices (dice?) into the ephod and have Aaron wear them over his heart. Of what need is divining to the Israelites? Are we to believe that the Gd that has done all this for Israel will now resort to the ancient equivalent of the modern day "8-ball" toy to communicate with the people?
Nu, only Moshe was good enough to talk to directly, and since he won't be around forever, you'll simply guide the high priest's hand to remove the black or white stone as appropriate (this is one theory of what the Urim and Thummim were.) This is how a Gd who carves commandments in stone now wishes to communicate with us?
Or is this the clever Gd, the learning and patient Gd, who understands that these chosen amongst all the nations are still given to superstition, unbelief and doubt, idol worship, divination and need their Gd to utilize the trappings of their current cultural and social context? They have spent centuries amongst another people known for the obsessive use of magic, oracles, divination, etc. It's unwise to expect instant adaptation to a whole new world view.
Or is it something else? Is this Gd's way of saying "I really don't know everything-sometimes you'll just have to ask the Urim and Thummim for the answer" or perhaps "sometimes I'm just to busy to answer every little question"?
©2000 & 2002 by Adrian A. Durlester
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