Parshat Chukat: By the King’s road

“‘Let us pass, I pray you, through your land. We will not pass through field or through vineyard, neither will we drink of the water of the wells. We will go along the king’s road, [and] we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed your border’.” (Numbers 20:17)

In order for human consciousness to exercise free will, we need at least two options and within an ethical frame usually they are good and evil, positive and negative, true and false, right or wrong, useful and useless, et al. We have said often that God created evil and negativity as references for us to choose goodness, for only through its opposites we will realize what goodness really is about.

The same principle applies for light and darkness. The verse above refers to the moment when the children of Israel were preparing to leave the desert to enter the Promised Land, and found the fierce opposition of the descendants of Esau, also known as Edom.

“And Edom said unto him, ‘You shall not pass through me, lest I come out with the sword against you’. (…) And he said, ‘You shall not pass through’. And Edom came out against him with much people and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border, therefore Israel turned away from him.” (20:18, 20-21)

The messenger of the children of Israel approached them saying, “Thus says your brother Israel” (20:14), with the expectation to see fulfilled the old prophecy that “(…) the elder shall serve the younger.” (Genesis 25:23). The strong opposition of Edom teaches us that making evil and negative traits subservient to goodness is not an easy task, even if we assume that being the “brother” of wickedness will change its nature in order for both to dwell in peace. Yet goodness doesn’t give up in its persistence to prevail in human consciousness, and our prophets remind us that it will be so in Israel’s redemption and the Messianic era.

“And redeemers shall come up to mount Zion to judge [direct] the mount of Esau, and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.” (Obadiah 1:21)

One of the lessons we learn from this episode is that no matter how good we can be or do by being in the King’s road (God’s ways and attributes), without “turning aside to the right hand or to the left”, evil’s relentlessness won’t give in to goodness.

Our sages have different views in regards to dealing with evil. Some among the Chassidic tradition believe that the only way to turn evil into goodness is to bring goodness to evil, for the latter can’t live without the former; and sooner or later will return to the ways and attributes of goodness. Others believe that evil must be eradicated in all its ways, forms and expressions regardless the circumstances, for goodness does not cohabit with evil.

Obadiah invites us to reflect on the prophecy God commanded him to share with the Jewish people. “Redeemers” can be understood as future righteous leaders who will have the power to remove the negative ways and traits of the people through a higher Torah education, and direct them towards the total goodness of the Messianic era.

We can also understand “redeemers” as the positive elevated qualities and creative potentials that are powerful enough to transform the negative traits and trends of ego’s fantasies and illusions into productive ways and means to make goodness rule in all aspects, dimensions and expressions of consciousness.

The main lesson remains to make ourselves fully aware that evil will not give in to goodness as long as we accept it as a “brother”, or even worse, as its “servant”.

“(…) and [Esau] said, ‘Who are these with you?’ And he [Jacob] said, ‘The children whom God has graciously given to your servant’.” (Genesis 33:5)

Obadiah is clear in regards to the “end of times” when evil will be wiped out from the earth.

“And the house of Jacob shall be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame, and the house of Esau for stubble, and they shall kindle in them and devour them; and there shall not be any remaining of the house of Esau; for the Lord has spoken.” (Obadiah 1:18)

Here we understand that Jacob represents the type of consciousness God wants to rule in humankind, as the transforming fire that expands our understanding and knowledge of His ways and attributes, while Joseph’s flame is the refined expression of such consciousness. Hence we assimilate that Joseph’s birthright is Jacob’s legacy as goodness, which is the essence and ruling principle of the Jewish identity.

We then realize that goodness transcends the limitations of the material world imposed by the temporary nature of the evil derived from ego’s fantasies and illusions. These are the chaff and stubble that disappear with the fire of love’s ways and attributes, and thus the Jewish prophecies are fulfilled.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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