We adherents to Abrahamic monotheism have a lot to talk about.
Let’s compare the concept of God as One (not many) to a tree that was planted long ago. We’ll think of it as, say, an olive tree.
Abraham had carried the seed stock from Mesopotamia, and planted it on a dusty site near the Jordan River. But the plant didn’t really produce much until Moses came along later and fertilized it with a rich historical accounting of deliverance from slavery, and a set of laws.
That Judeo-culture has proliferated widely over four thousand years or so, and still flourishes prolifically today in the dry, rich soil in which it was planted, so to speak.
Moses made his legacy especially potent by sowing into Jewish history the powerful story of their deliverance from Egyptian slavery.
Having escaped that bondage, however, the Jewish people found themselves out in the desert without Egyptian comforts and provisions. It was a very difficult and perilous situation for a million or so people to endure. Moses reported in his Torah that at one point, he and his brother, Aaron, had a bloody rebellion on their hands.
The authority issues in that long-ago rebellion of Korah’s followers against Moses eventually culminated in a demonstration of God’s appointment of who would carry the “holy fire” of the altar, and divine leadership. As it turned out, Moses and Aaron came through the ordeal carrying the fire of God’s revealed will to perpetual generations, while the rebels were rejected by God in subsequent earth-shaking events.
That series of events, known as Korah’s rebellion (Numbers chapter 16) is a thorny subject for any scholar or believer to explain. Nevertheless, the young Adele Cohen recently accepted that challenge as a part of her bat mitzvah. Roger Cohen shared a bit of his daughter’s ceremonious Torah-talking in his NYT column last Thursday.
The young lady perceptively pointed out to her congregation that God had had some trouble relating to his people, so he appointed Moses and Aaron as intermediaries. 12-year-old Adele said: “In my opinion that is the main reason that God has Moses and Aaron, to help Him understand the human race and help fix conflicts in a calm and rational way.”
When I read that, I was thinking: if God had become a man, instead of just speaking through one, he might have had a better time composing a message that we humans could get a hold of.
Adele’s father, Roger, on the other had, had his cognitive wheels turning around contemporary events, as he listened carefully to his daughter’s discourse. The ever-vigilant columnist was considering her youthful counsel as it might peradventure pertain to Israel’s present predicament, especially this week’s hot spot, the Mavi Marvara incident. When she had finished speaking, the rabbi elaborated upon her subject of how God gets his messages across to his people.
Rabbi Bachman compared God’s word to a fire. He said, “..if you get too far from it you freeze, but if you draw too near to it you burn…The word of God can actually destroy you if you get too close.”
That seems to be what’s happening to the Israeli zealots now. They are destroying their own legitimacy, undermining their own authority. Roger, sitting there in a receptive mode, muses that they are “modern-day absolutists…cleaving too close to the fire” of what God is reported to have said. The IDF have taken their self-appointed fire-bearing too far.
Better to lighten up and allow us other sons of Abraham to have a say in the matter.
Not by might, not by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.