Monday, October 6, 2014

Numbers: Chapter 13

What you see

in a world of opposites

The doubled eyes

Whithin and without


[For full chapter, click here
From the depths of complaints and anger, we seem to have returned to the hopefulness of Moses' declaration to his father-in-law: "We are journeying (n's'a) to the place that God has spoken of."In accordance with the spreading of leadership to the people, the "princes of the tribes" (n's'a) now take an active role. Whereas until now, the Ark has gone forth to "scout out" (le-tur) the road, now the princes are sent to "scout out" (la-tur) the chosen land. But that backdrop of the previous chapters lend ominous undertones. We are back in the realm of the aftermath of the Golden Calf, the 40 days and nights of prayers. We still are dealing with the same leitwords of "eating" (a'kh'l), carrying / burden (n's'a), and the gaze--the focus on eyes and looking, which is intensified here. 
What happens when the "heads" of a small encampment are sent to see a new world? The options are doubled and opposed: "are they strong or weak / many or few / fat or lean"? It is a primordial moment of choice, as indicated by the motif of 40 days--the same fateful number that defined Sinai, and the forgiveness for the Golden Calf.
For a moment on return, the options remain suspended.  The land is "of milk and honey", but...
Caleb tries to turn the tide, doubling his language in an attempt to decide the duality: "let us go up up (alo-na-ale) for we surely can (yakhol nukhal)". What follows is a crash to the other side, a total disintegration of self: It is a land of people of "stature" but we were as "insects in our eyes", shrunken and diminished. The dissolution of leadership continues.]

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