Monday, February 2, 2015

Deuteronomy: Chapter 8

Dry sere lan
where you cry to the sky for bread,
 Trial by ordeal
 What is your hunger?

[For full chapter. click here
This chapter is built around the poles of "remember" (z'kh'r) and "forget" (sh'k'kh); "coming" into the Land, and the wandering through the desert, and the definitive relationship to food. Do you hunger or are you satiated, and from whence does your food come: 
"Remember the way which God your Lord led you through the way of the wilderness these forty years," says Moses. Yet in defining what must not be forgotten, Moses also presents a new vision of the desert experience: "to afflict and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He afflicted you and starved you, feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God."
For the first time, albeit only in implicit backhand, and we get Israel's experience of the desert experience. If in the Books of Numbers and Exodus, the nation seemed like ungrateful "complainers," here we are told that the desert wandering was not the protective cocoon of the "pillar of fire" we might have thought. It was an "affliction" (a'n'a--the same root used for modern Hebrew "torture" and for "poverty"); a scrambling for existence on the edge of hunger, a long and wear way through "the great and dreadful wilderness, wherein were serpents, fiery serpents, and scorpions, and thirsty ground where was no water". The desert journey was a protracted trial by ordeal, stripping the nation down to bedrock, until God is engraved in their bones.
Not for nothing did they complain again and again, begging for death and peace.
It is this experience strung between "hunger" and "thirst" that must define the relationship to the "good land" flowing with water. The edge must always remain below the  plenty, so the nation is always aware that this "power" can disappear as easily as it comes, and they once more can slip into oblivion].

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