Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Torah Group, Redux

Tonight the Torah group met, and we read and discussed the book Bo, or "Go!" which recounts the plagues and exodus out of Egypt. We discussed the figure of Moses and his parallel figure, Miriam, though Miriam is not much discussed in the Torah itself. She is a water figure, and in Hebrew apparently, her name too has something watery about it, arising from the root of the word "mayim," water. She was rumored to have a well that traveled with her wherever she and the Israelites went. Talk about traveling pants... a well was something even more impressive! When she died, the Israelites lost their water, and that's when Moses had to strike the rock, which got him in trouble with God.
Moses was another figure through which God acted. In the book after they left, when the Israelites were wandering in the desert, Moses not only struck the rock, as all along he had been enacting the plagues with the rod God told him to stretch out over the land of Egypt, and making the waters part, etc., but he used his hands to help Joshua overtake Amalek (though he needed a little propping up from his friends to keep that up after a while).
We discussed the cruelty of God's efforts to get the Israelites to marvel at his works, where he slaughters the Egyptians and repeatedly hardens Pharoah's heart just so he can overcome the Gods of Egypt and get everyone to fear him. The woman who always asks where the moral in these stories is merely shook her head. She's stopped looking for the morals, realizing they are in the interpretations of the stories rather than in the stories themselves.


Lou said...

Wonderful! You look for the morals. I look for the source. Why and how THESE stories. What wee ancient people thinking about water and how to get it. So intriguing! Thank you for always sharing these evenings with the Torah.

Robbi said...

You're welcome, Lou. I really enjoy doing it.
I don't really look for morals because I don't believe they are there. For me, these are stories very like those in The Odyssey, where people are rewarded for their canniness, and where those who win out do so because they break the rules of normal life, though not the rules this God has set out for them.
In these oldest stories of the Torah, God is like a willful child would be if s/he were omnipotent... dangerous and arbitrary. Sometimes compassionate, sometimes murderous. I have always had a sense that while God exists, this is not necessarily an altogether benevolant force in our terms. This is the price one pays for being a monotheist, unless she finesses it by saying evil is an absence of God, as the Catholics (I'm thinking Dante) do. I don't think that. For me, evil definitely exists, but it is at the service of God.