Sunday, October 19, 2014

Numbers: Chapter 17

What remains
in the ashes

What flowers 
in the night

Standing between 
life and death

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, 

and  tomorrow

[For full chapter, click here
We continue the leitmotif of "complaints" (tlunah, melenim), and explosive anger. The key words of this chapter continue seamlessly from  the last.
In a recreation of death of Nadav and Avihu, "consumed" for bringing "alien fire", Kora'sh250 men are consumed. They have come too "close" (k'r'v) and pay the price; only the remains of their "fire pans" achieve the consecration (k'd'sh) they sought, as they are made an eternal "sign" (ot) on the altar.
If until this point, Moses has been the calming voice, with God "flaring" in anger, Korach's personal attach led Moses to "flare" in anger himself. The people seem to sense the personal nature of Moses' anger, and blame him for "bringing death" to "God's nation". Once again, God's anger flares, are the entire nation is in danger of being "consumed / finished" (akhale, which plays on akhl, eaten) as teh 250 men were. Moses returns to playing the calming role. If before, he mixed death and life by having Korah descend "living into the underworld"; he now commands Aaron to "stand between the living and the dead."
The chapter closes with God commanding the princes (nesiim) of the tribes (mateh) --who until now have been  the source of discord-- to bring their staffs(mateh)  to the Tent of Meeting. In a play on words, the "congregation" (edah) bring the staffs to the Tend of Meeting (mo'ed) to stand before the testimony (edut). At last there is an attempt--if only lexical--to bridge the gap between the problematic mob/congregation and the Dwelling. The final "sign" (ot) of God's choice of Aaron is far more hopeful than the first: a flowering budding staff, hinting at life and rebirth.] 

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