Sorcerous Overconfidence (Acharei-Kedoshim)
Sorcery is the sauce fools spoon over failure to hide the flavor of their own incompetence. –George R. R. Martin
There is a fascinating Midrash connected to the Torah reading from last week, which relates that the Canaanites would hide their wealth and treasures in the walls of their homes. After the conquest of Canaan, the young Israelite nation took over their houses. Some of these houses developed Tzaraat, an unusual discoloration of the walls. Following the commandments of the Torah, and after careful inspection by the Kohen, the discolored stones from the wall were removed. And lo and behold, the new Jewish occupants of these houses discovered treasure and wealth in those walls.
The Bat Ayin on Leviticus 18:3, which states that we should not do acts like the Egyptians or the Canaanites, asks why the Canaanites didn’t take their wealth with them when fleeing from the Israelite invasion. He answers that the Canaanites had among them powerful sorcerers. These sorcerers may have been from the same school or group as the ones in Pharaoh’s employ during the showdown with Moses and the onslaught of the plagues that devastated Egypt. In any case, the Canaanites were so confident in their sorcerous power and so unbelieving in God or in God’s ability to harm them that they couldn’t imagine being overrun by the approaching mass of former slaves. Hence, they kept their treasure hidden inside the stone walls of their homes. When the Jewish nation finally did conquer Canaan, as promised by God, it was too late for the Canaanites to retrieve their hidden wealth.
The Torah states how the Canaanites were a highly corrupt people. Besides for their corruption, their promiscuity and their idolatrous practices, the Canaanites apparently believed in their superiority, sorcerous prowess, and control of their world. They didn’t believe in an omnipotent God who may have other plans. Their overconfidence and hubris caused them to underestimate the non-sorcerous Jewish people approaching them. Not only did they lose their homes and their lands, as God promised, but they also lost their portable wealth.
May we be wary of our own overconfidence in the works of our hands or our belief in the extent of our control of the world.
To the community of Congregation Beth Torah for their fantastic hospitality and a wonderful Shabbat.