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Arguing with G-d – Moshe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 2, 2009

The background to this is Bamidbar/Numbers 14.

Bamidbar/Num 14:1-2 “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron; and the whole congregation said unto them: ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would we had died in this wilderness!”

The Children of Israel are in an uproar, they are dissatisfied with the way Moshe and Aharon and ultimately G-d is running things as they near the Land of Canaan and are told that they will soon have to face the inhabitants of that land, fearing that they will be killed there.

They start to pick up stones to stone Moshe and Aharon. That’s when G-d enters the scene:

Bamidbar/Num 14:11-12 “And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘How long will this people despise Me? and how long will they not believe in Me, for all the signs which I have wrought among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and destroy them, and will make of thee a nation greater and mightier than they.’”

G-d is coming out all riled up (verse 10), threatening the Israelites with all sorts of horrible things, including disinheriting them and make another People for Moshe and Himself. On the surface He is in His right. He has over and over shown them what a wonderful G-d He is, He has clothed them and fed them and defended them against  hoards of enemies, and all they do in return is yell and scream, groan, moan and whine, object to his commands and generally be extremely obnoxious. Anyone would lose their temper in the face of such obstinacy and adversity! So G-d loses it. He loses His temper and is about to go berserk on the Israelites when Moshe confronts G-d:

Bamidbar/Num 14:13-16 “And Moses said unto the LORD: ‘When the Egyptians shall hear – for Thou broughtest up this people in Thy might from among them – they will say to the inhabitants of this land, who have heard that Thou LORD art in the midst of this people; inasmuch as Thou LORD art seen face to face, and Thy cloud standeth over them, and Thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night; now if Thou shalt kill this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of Thee will speak, saying: Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which He swore unto them, therefore He hath slain them in the wilderness.”

This is absolutely wonderful! Moshe throws G-d’s own vanity in His face! “Hey here’s what your enemies are going to say about this if you kill this people. You went about getting this people for yourself by virtually stealing it from the Egyptians. You made a big show of things, in fire, smoke and all sorts of fireworks and now, because they grumble a little, you give up!?” Then Moshe throws G-d’s own words in His face: Bamidbar/Num 14:17-19 “And now, I pray Thee, let the power of the Lord be great, according as Thou hast spoken, saying: The LORD is slow to anger, and plenteous in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation. Pardon, I pray Thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of Thy lovingkindness, and according as Thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.’”

See what Moshe is doing? He is using the same tactics that Avraham used in Bereshit/Gen 18 – he points out to G-d that what He is planning is not in accordance with Who He Is. Again G-d is confronted with the other side of the Justice coin, this time through His own word –  Shemot/Exo 34:6-7. He might, on the surface, be in His right to obliterate the entire people, He is G-d after all, but not when the matter is looked at on a deeper level. On a deeper level G-d must act with Mercy and in accordance with His own word. Oh, by all means, punish those who are actually guilty, but Justice without Mercy is no Justice! Moshe knows it, and he points this out to G-d. And then he asks G-d to forgive the people. Which G-d does, immediately.

So what’s in this for us?

First the understanding that true Justice is spelled Justice/Mercy. One cannot exist without the other. Even when we violate G-d’s Law and mess up to a point where we can imagine G-d tearing His hair in frustration can we hold up G-d’s own Torah to Him and claim G-d’s justice for our crimes and know that the moment we ask Him to fogive us, we are forgiven. We still have to live with the consequences (such as having to apologize to other people and accept that they are angry at us, change how we deal with similar situations, pay the fine for speeding or attend AA meetings for drunk driving, etc) of the mess-up, but we are no longer “at odds with G-d” over it. This is grace in its truest meaning.

See also 2 Shmuel/Sam 12:13

Secondly we are taught that we are to treat others with the same Justice/Mercy as G-d is treating us with. Moshe and Aharon were about to be stoned by the angry people – still Moshe interceded and asked G-d to forgive. I.e Moshe forgave the people that they attempted to kill him. Why? Because, I think, he remembered what is said in Vayikra/Lev 19:2 “Ye shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy” and in Vayikra/Lev 19:18 “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”


3 Responses to “Arguing with G-d – Moshe”

  1. Ketutar said

    “all they do in return is yell and scream, groan, moan and whine, object to his commands and generally be extremely obnoxious.”


  2. Judaism is this worldly.


  3. @ Renegade: Yes, and so fit for human consumption *lol* I it love when I get a chance to be irreverent in my Divrei Torot…

    @ Ketutar: Fnitter (giggle) indeed.


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