Adrian A. Durlester

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Random Musings Before Shabbat - Va'era 5762

Early Will I Seek You

Early in the morning. Three times, Gd tells Moshe to confront Pharaoh in the morning. Why this niggling little detail? Does it really matter when Moshe confronted Pharaoh, or, for that matter, that Gd instructed Moshe to do the confronting at a specific time? Well, it obviously mattered to Gd, so the question becomes "why?" Shall we just chalk it up to the old favorite, the inscrutable Gd?

Was confronting Pharaoh in the early morning a good strategy? I don't know about you, but catching someone after a good nights sleep, well rested, raring and eager to have a go as another day as a living gd here on earth, well, I don't think that's auspicious timing. Catch him at the end of the day, when he's tired, worn out, prone to be more compromising and less resistant. That appears a more sound strategy. Pharaoh's tired (but not too tired to be eager for some evening frolics with his wives, which also makes him eager to move on quickly, perhaps.)

Is there some connection as to which plagues were those in which Moshe was told by Gd to confront Pharaoh in the morning? Dam. Arov. Barad. Blood. Beasts. Hail. What's the commonality? It's not self-evident to me. Why just these three?

(Yes-water is the source of life-and not just for the Egyptians-and all three of these items come from water-blood, beasts and hail-though I wonder if the ancients understood hail as a water product? Hollywood seems to have a penchant for tiny flaming meteorites in those scenes.)

It appears Pharaoh does have a routine. Goes down to the water every morning perhaps, or at least on appointed days. So there's a certain predictability in bumping into Pharaoh at that time. But why not do this for each encounter? Perhaps Gd decided to mix things up a bit, keep Pharaoh off guard? Never know when that Moses character is gonna show up!

Ah, now maybe we're getting somewhere. I've written in previous years about my consternation over the inconsistencies in the various plague narrations. Why are some announced, others not? Why do some have repetitive text and others not? And now, why some early morning announcements and others not?

Maybe they're not inconsistent at all. Maybe it is all about "mixing it up." Or, taking an even bigger leap-maybe it is all about inscrutability.

Now, the modern theological mind is simply not content to rest at inscrutability as an explanation for anything. Our ancestors, however, were much more comfortable with "it is, because it just is, and we can't understand it." Maybe these "inconsistencies" in the plague narrations are yet another message to us that we can, and indeed, have to live with not understanding everything. It's frustrating, I know. Even I was hoping for a different outcome when I started writing this musing. I was hoping I could extract some brilliant meaning out of these three "morning" encounters with Pharaoh. But I'm right back at the start, with that old inscrutable Gd. Darn. Guess I'm gonna have to learn to embrace that sometimes.

I don't think accepting that there are some things, like Gd, which we can never know or understand fully necessarily means we shut down our desire to inquire. For millennia now, Jews have accepted both the ineffability of Gd and the immanence of Gd. And we have accepted Gd's ineffability yet still inquire, inquire, inquire. We study, we learn, we analyze. We pick apart the text, letter by letter, jot by jot and tittle by tittle. We reinterpret, re-evaluate, even change our understandings. So it is possible to accept some limitations on our ability to acquire all knowledge without giving up the search.

Well, I certainly had no idea where this was going when I started writing it. And now that I'm here, I'm totally surprised. And that, my friends, is why I continue to do this. Why I study and read Torah, hold it up to scrutiny, and yet revere it as Holy and imbued with wisdom and intrinsic value.

My your searching be always as fruitful as my own.

Shabbat shalom,


©2002 by Adrian A. Durlester

Some Previous Musings on the Same Parasha

Va'era 5761
Just Not Getting It

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