Student Teaching in the New Millenium

5771 Masei I

In Numbers, Torah on July 25, 2011 at 3:36 am


Keeping history
sets fact weeping
except when it doesn’t.

Jeremiah 2:4 – 28, 3:4, 4:1 – 2
Numbers 33:1 – 10

Why does the text say that the Israelites set out defiantly or with a high hand? Why not say God led them out of Egypt? I’ve seen this rendered as written (as Ramban suggests) by the commandment or by the direction. If by the commandment, then, why command the history be written this way? If by the direction then why allow it? Is the barren wilderness supposed to be self-evident as Ramban suggests? If the predisposition is to worship things, couldn’t the Israelites have just turned around and worshipped the wilderness that miraculously supported them, because this might have seemed self-evident? Because they found the manna each day, writes Ramban quoting Rambam, but all these matters are signs of events of a miraculous nature which were seen by the human eye, and we see how well this worked out at Moab. How can we expect more of subsequent generations? Are Jeremiah’s cries, then, too little too late?

Rashi suggests that the journeys are recorded to show God’s beneficence, that the Israelites were not driven harshly without rest. So, by this logic, if by commandment or direction, how do we know the whole history is here? Or, for that matter, how do we know the Israelites went through the wilderness, and purification, at all? For none of those who spurn Me shall see it. This is not the case. Was the Day of Atonement practiced in the wilderness? Did it atone?

Ramban suggests that by the commandment refers to as written, and not to the journeys themselves. Why not both? A super-commentator to Rashi suggests that the enumeration suggests that the journeys were lengthy enough to keep the people occupied for the interval, but that it was easily traveled in a short time.

Why does Ramban suppose a secret purpose for the record? Isn’t dwelling on mysteries forbidden? The secret things belong unto the LORD our God?

How could Moses have written the travels down at this time if the entire Torah is supposed to have been given at Sinai?

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