Sound like a throw away question? not really…and I’ve never been more troubled by the thought
I wonder if any of the Bible thumpers ( and I’m being non-denominational) celebrating the demise of Roe V Wade paid attention to the weekly Torah (5 books of Moses) portion read in many synagogues around the world Saturday past.
A TROUBLING SHORT STORY
Amongst the many storylines, it presented, is one that has always bothered me. The text tells us that while in the wilderness “They” (not in the pro-noun sense) an anonymous group of Israelites found a “Man gathering sticks on the Shabbat Day”
The story is short. The same “they’ took him to Moses and Aaron and to the “whole congregation…our equivalent, I imagine of a Social Media Post that went viral.
WHAT DO WE DO WITH HIM?
Next they isolated him…detention if you will… because they didn’t know what to do with him. Which, in and of itself was strange because God’s law was pretty clear on this….desecrate the Sabbath with work…like picking up sticks… and you get put to death.
Yet they were not sure. Some commentators opine that that they just were not sure of how to kill him….God does make it clear though. Stone him.
COME ON…..I’VE ALREADY COVERED THIS ONE…..
Yet what’s fascinating is that Moses must have asked the question and God answered by saying “of course he gets executed” didn’t you read the law? Finally, the people take him outside the camp, as ordered, and stone him to death.
In my view this is an incredible story for our time.
So much going on here.
IF YOU LOOK YOU FIND….
The religious enforcement police….out looking for transgressors…found one….no discussion of why he was gathering sticks…maybe his wife or children were sick and needed the heat or warm food. Maybe he got confused. Or maybe he just gave up religion.
“They”, the anonymous holy rollers, take him to the seat of power and parade him in front of the people. No doubt they feel good…they lock him up. And then they are all flummoxed. Even Moses is silent.
NOW PAY THE PRICE
Clearly (to me) the full implication of their zealotry has hit them…they….the greater they…need to kill him. Look around…how often have we seen this? When actors on some hate stage realize the full implications of their ideology…words and actions. Some back off but others embrace and dive in…DEATH TO THEM!!!! whoever THEM is to the “THEY”.
See the text. God is telling them…you looked you found…now the consequence is yours. Stone the fellow. Kill him. And they do.
JUST SAY NO……
Imagine if they hadn’t been out looking. Or if they had looked the other way. Imagine if they begged God not to kill him…or had just refused.
Seems to me we are standing at this same threshold today.
Laws are being passed that create vigilante enforcers. Religious groups, across the spectrum, feel the right to police their flock and often try to extend that behavior to others. Rocks get thrown…people get assaulted….reputations are ruined….violence becomes a lingua franca.
Thousands of years later the story is told of the great Chassidic Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. One Sabbath as he was returning home from synagogue he saw a man of his acquaintance…a Jew….a simple laborer….quietly enjoying a cigarette …clearly forbidden, on the day, by Jewish religious law.
The great Rebbe stops…they greet each other….Chaim…the Rebbe says….Shabbat Shalom…you know it’s Sabbath right? Rebbe….how could I not know….I look forward every week….the one day I don’t have to break my back…..Chaim is that a cigarette?…yes Rebbe…he replies…I do love my smokes. Chaim…do you know it’s lit? Rebbe of Course I do…..it’s what I enjoy.
The holy Levi Yitzchak turns to heaven and says…God what a wonderful people you have….look how they tell the truth….I gave him every opportunity to lie and he never did.
WE LIVE IN DANGEROUS TIMES….ONLY OUR HUMANITY CAN SAVE US
As we face the headwinds of what is going to be a time fraught with opportunity to “stone those we see as transgressors” maybe we need to see them as something else entirely and thank God for our humanity.