Student Teaching in the New Millenium

People of the Land

In Exodus on January 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Pharaoh Notes the Importance of the Jewish People, by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

I wake up today,
And bend my back to my work.
The taskmaster comes.

He says do this way.
I do. He says do that way.
Why? Because you’re wrong.

Exodus 1.1 – 6.1
Isaiah 27.6 – 28.13; 29.22 – 23

Parsha Shemot

‘Come, let us deal wisely with them, lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there befalleth us any war, they also join themselves unto our enemies, and fight against us, and get them up out of the land.’

Exodus 1.10

Why say deal wisely or deal shrewdly with them?  Why not just say deal with them?

There is an old, old term in our tradition.  The Am Ha’aretz, or “people of the earth.”  At the turn of the eras, this was a rough phrase for landless, unskilled day workers.  These people took whatever work they could find and were looked down on by higher levels of society.  Could that be part of what’s going on here?

Woe to the crown of pride of the drunkards of Ephraim,
And to the fading flower of his glorious beauty,
Which is on the head of the fat valley
Of them that are smitten down with wine!

Isaiah 28.1

Why don’t the Israelites deal wisely with the Egyptians?  Is this from too much food and wine in the Egyptian bars?  Why didn’t they just leave?

Are food and wine metaphors for daily experience?  It seems to me there is a lot of fat in our daily lives, and oftentimes things happen that muddle my judgement.  Sometimes, I can’t see straight!  Did Pharoah take the actions he did not only to physically subjugate the Israelites, but to spiritually subjugate them as well?  The text specifies fight against us and get them up out of the land.  One is physical.  Is the other mental?  Does one go without the other?

These behaviors persist in people to this day.  How do we know when others try to make us into am ha’aretz? How do we know when we’re being subjected to this treatment?  How do we know when its willful or just stupid?  Why do we hesitate to respond, and how do we decide?  Should it be scary when we respond, or beautiful? How can we tell when we behave this way towards other people, and how do we stop?

Is the book of Shemot about the redemption of Israel from “sin,” or bad habits?  Is the point of exodus to divinely test and prove one’s worth, or is it P90X for the soul?

  1. Another great post. I enjoyed reading your blog today.

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