Thursday, October 2, 2014

Numbers: Chapter 10

Sound the trumpets 

Of motion
Of memory
Of meeting

And the moment of leave-taking
When eyes close

In the vortex
Don't leave me now

[For full chapter, click here
After all the planning and counting and appointing, the encampment is finally ready to travel. This new unity is announced by the command to create the trumpets "of a single solid"--an echo of the previous chapter's opening description of the Manorah, hammered of "a single solid." But whereas the Menorah belongs to the "inside", to Aaron and the Sanctuary; these trumpets are "for you" and serve to call the people. They are the harbingers of "memory" for Israel as a whole, whether in war or in festival.
The joyfulness of this first travel is broken by the description of Hovav/Jethro's leave taking. At the moment of triumphant travel, he prepares to leave. "Come with us" Moses begs.
"No" says Hovav, "I will return to my homeland and my birthplace" --a precise inverted parallel of Abraham's original journey "away from you homeland and your birthplace" to the unknown "land that will be shown." This is an ominous inversion, indicating that travel "to the land that God promised to give us" might not be so simple as Moses thinks. Indeed, Moses, in a rare moment of vulnerability, reveals the pain and anxiety of the journey through the unknown: "Do not leave us. You know how we are to encamp in the wilderness. You have been our eyes!"
Hovav does not answer, and we return to the story of travel]

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