This week’s portion, B’Haalotekha, starts out rather peacefully. We read instructions concerning the gold menorah; the final preparation of the Levites (including a full-body shave); and the institution of Pesach Sheni, a second Passover a month later, for those who were unable to participate in the first because ritual impurity (e.g., contact with a corpse). Then we read a general description of a march. A cloud by day and fire by night over the Tabernacle would tell them when and where to go (Biblical GPS). Two silver trumpets are used to summon the people. The order of march, including the Levite houses, is specified. Jethro, aka Reuel, father-in-law of Moses, decides the situation is stable enough for him to return to Midian and he does, though Moses wants him to stay. The Israelites set out on the 20th day of the second month of the second year. And Verses 10:35-36, set off by inverted letter nuns , like brackets, in the scroll (maybe the text is from a different source or scroll?), have become part of our liturgy, in the Torah service. So everything is neatly tied up, the Israelites are on their way, and it should be smooth sailing (marching) to the Promised Land.
Then the mood shifts, as if we’ve been having a nice dream and just woke up to reality. The people start to kvetch. There doesn’t seem to be an incident (this time) triggering their complaining, but the Lord sends a fire that destroys the outer edges of the camp. Moses helps patch things up.
Then the people, possibly egged on by the riffraff in their midst, start whining about having to live on manna, instead of the meat, fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic they remember from Egypt. Now even Moses is fed up about being saddled with responsibility for the people, like a wet nurse. So, as Jethro had taught Moses about managerial delegation, the Lord instructs Moses on spiritual delegation; he is to select 70 elders who will receive some of the spirit that is on him and share his burden. And the people get their meat (I guess without the garlic) in the form of flocks of quail. The people gorge themselves on it and then suffer a divine plague (food poisoning?).
This is the pattern we’ll see over and over again: The people make the Lord angry. The Lord punishes them. Moses and/or Aaron intervene with the Lord to end the punishment. And the people (usually) repent, until the next time.
Even Miriam and Aaron are cranky, slandering their brother about his Cushite wife and whining that they’re prophets too, to the extent that they get personally chewed out by the Lord and Miriam gets tzora’at (the skin affliction that is not leprosy) for her slander.
What is going on?
The moorings have been pulled loose. There are no more big projects, like building the Tabernacle or furnishing it, or making priestly vestments, or training and inaugurating priests and Levites, or mind-blowing theophanies. Most of the time, they are encamped, not marching. Daily life is pretty dull, with little to do but gather manna and grow increasingly anxious about what lies ahead of them. A little over a year out from Egypt, they do not have strong enough faith to quell their internal doubts and fears about their future in a promised land. And, as we’ll read next week, that leads to disaster.
An old man saw a very tired infantryman resting after a hard foot march. The man said with disdain: “When I was of your age I thought nothing of a ten-mile hike.”
“Well, I don’t think much of it either,” replied the GI.
To Shave or Not to Shave?
[Legs, that is. I had a roommate my first year of grad school who referred to it as “mowing the lawn.” IGP]
Vegetables Compiled by Michael P. Garofalo
This cabbage, these carrots, these potatoes, these onions … will soon become me. Such a tasty fact!
– Mike Garofalo
- Prescription for an English garden:
The garden should be adorned with roses and lilies, the turnsole, violets, and mandrake; there you should have parsley, cost, fennel, southern-wood, coriander, sage, savory, hyssop, mint, rue, dittany, smallage, pellitory, lettuces, garden-cress, and peonies. There should also be beds planted with onions, leeks, garlic, pumpkins and shallots. The cucumber growing in its lap, the drowsy poppy, the daffodil and brank-ursine ennoble a garden. Nor are there wanting, if occasion further thee, pottage-herbs: beets, herb-mercury, orache, sorrel and mallows, anise, mustard, white pepper and wormwood do good service to the gardener.
– Alexander of Neckham, Of the Nature of Things, 1187
[For more about medieval and Renaissance gardens, go to http://www.gallowglass.org/jadwiga/herbs/medievalgardens.htm IGP].
- What is a Honeymoon Salad?
Lettuce alone, with no dressing.
- What vegetable did Noah not take on the ark?
- To my favorite honeydew, do you carrot all for me?
My heart beets for you, with your turnip nose, and radish face.
You are a peach. If we cantaloupe, lettuce marry.
Weed make a swell pear.
– Author Unknown
There was a big fight at the seafood restaurant. Three fish got battered.
Quotes about Slander
“If you haven’t got anything nice to say about anybody come sit next to me.”
― Alice Roosevelt Longworth
“I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”
― Margaret Thatcher