Student Teaching in the New Millenium

5771 Masei III

In Midrash, Numbers, Torah on July 28, 2011 at 4:35 am

Clean up your garden
Build you a fence to check them
Snakes sneak through the cracks

Jeremiah 2:4 – 28, 3:4, 4:1 – 2
Numbers 33:50 – 34:15

Two things occur in the third Aliyah. First, Israel is told to drive out the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, or else their remnant will be as stings in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land in which you live (Numbers 33:54), and destroy all their idols and high places. Second, Israel’s borders are defined. Why place this directive and this definition next to each other?

This is foreign policy on the surface. “We’re here, you’re there”. Other nations are noted by Rashi and the text, but the Israelites’ directive is limited to taming the land they’ve been assigned. Manifest destiny.

How sustainable is this policy? Then, and now? What does it hope to accomplish? And what does it mean in our age of diversity?

Jeremiah is quiet on the former inhabitants of Canaan, but has plenty to say about the current ones and their gods, For your gods have become, O Judah, as many as your towns! (Jer. 2:28). They said to wood, “You are my father,” to stone, “You gave birth to me” (ibid 2:27). This is a counter-point to our text, you shall destroy all their figured objects; you shall destroy all their molten images, and you shall demolish all their cult places (Numbers 33:52). What does this tell us?

There is a concept in the Tao of the ten thousand things, or particular things, symbolic of the myriad distractions that could lead us from the Way. We cannot destroy the ten thousand things, but we can recognize them for what they are and release our thinking from them. What they are is a good question. What does this teach us?

Are the gods of Israel among the ten thousand things? Do we have ten thousand things? If yes, are they the same? If you were to drive out the inhabitants of the land before you (Numbers 33:52), how is your land defined and what inhabitants are there to drive out? Do they leave anything behind? Do they harass us if left unchecked?

Is a wilderness of nations (Ezek. 20:35) comparable to a wilderness of thought?

Final question: are a person and a bad idea the same thing?

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