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June 21, 2014 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Chukkat

This week’s Torah portion features the famous “water from the rock” episode (Num. 19).  The people complain about the absence of water, and Moses gets miffed and hits a rock (which maybe he should have spoken to, though the medieval commentators are divided on how much this matters).

Why are people so upset in the first place?  After all, they have manna to eat, and they have domestic animals which means occasional milk and meat.   For one thing, the absence of water seems to be a recurrent problem.  Evidently, God doesn’t want them to get too comfortable, otherwise God would have provided water along with the manna (but then you’d have fewer complaints, thus making the story more boring I suppose).

Scharfstein reads in a couple of other problems that are not in the text, suggesting that “The hot sun baked them during the day and the cold desert froze them at night” while local tribes “stole their property and flocks.”  I don’t know where he gets this from, but regardless of the relationship to the text Scharfstein has a shrewd insight into human nature.

Having enough to eat* is important, but people really, really care about weather- which is one reason why the South and Southwest became more popular after air conditioning, since people could enjoy warm winters without experiencing scorching summers to the same degree.  People also care about bodily security, which is why flight from city to suburb was most rapid in the 1960s and 1970s; even though incomes were rapidly growing in those days (at least until the mid-70s energy crisis) crime rose most rapidly then. 


*Scharfstein also writes that the Jews “died of disease, hunger and thirst.”  Given the constant manna I don’t know where he gets this from.


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