Sunday, May 4, 2014
Exodus: Chapter 16
fly with the wind
rather than knowledge
Bound always to
the time between
Caught between the eves
[For full chapter, click here
The long road to freedom. The brief moment of joy and faith after the crossing of the sea disintegrates further. If before "the nation" complained against "Moses," now "the entire congregation of Israel" complains against "Moses and Aaron." There is a profound ennui, a death wish, a desire to escape to the cocoon of slavery in face of the unrelenting, uncertain, wilderness "Who would give our death by the hand of God in Egypt, as we sat by pots of flesh, and ate bread to our fill? You took us out to this wilderness to kill this multitude with hunger!"
Hints of dangerous similarity between Israel and Egypt abound. Once more we return to the triplet of "know" "See" and "hear" that opened Moses' mission to Pharaoh. "Till when will you refuse (ad ana me-antem) to keep my commandments and law?" God demands, an echo of his warning to Pharaoh "Till when will you refuse (ad matai me-anta) to send this people forth?" (10:3). Like the stench that coated Egypt as the first the waters and then the land rotted (hivishu), the manna kept against God's command rots (hivish).
It is one month after the exodus, yet Israel must be told "Evening and you will know that God took you out of Egypt" "You will know that God is your God." They are permeated by a profound uncertainty. That is the great "test." There is nothing that can be kept, no security. The food must be gathered "every day's on the day." "Nobody can take more," everything is measured by the number of "living souls." Anything stored, spoils. And once a week, nothing falls, and one must live on the faith that this day, it will stay. "The God that gave you the Sabbath gave you food." It is a hard training in the terror of living on the edge, consumed by a God who is all-encompassing, but never fully present. Better indeed to die by His hand, and at least know Him.
In place of "knowledge", a question: "What is this?" (man hu?). The definitive name for their food, Man/manna is "What?" . An echo of Moses and Aaron's own existential: "and what are we?" (ve-anahnu ma?) ]