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Posts Tagged ‘Arguing with G-d’

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.”


Posted in Numbers 14, Torah | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Arguing With G-d – Avraham

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 2, 2009

Bereshit/Gen 18:17 And the LORD said: ‘Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

G-d is debating with Himself whether to tell Avraham that He intend to destroy Sodom – enumerating the reasons for including Avraham in His counsel. He decides to tell Avraham (perhaps also because Lot is living there, which we are informed about in Gen 19).

Bereshit/Gen 18:20 And the LORD said: ‘Verily, the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and, verily, their sin is exceeding grievous. I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know.’

The Argument:
What ensues in the next batch of verses (23-32) is one of the best examples of how to argue with G-d, and actually win!

Bereshit/Gen 18:23-32 “And Abraham drew near, and said: ‘Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep away and not forgive the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from Thee; shall not the judge of all the earth do justly?’ And the LORD said: ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will forgive all the place for their sake.’ And Abraham answered and said: ‘Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes. Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous; wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five?’ And He said: ‘I will not destroy it, if I find there forty and five.’ And he spoke unto Him yet again, and said: ‘Peradventure there shall be forty found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not do it for the forty’s sake.’ And he said: ‘Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Peradventure there shall thirty be found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’ And he said: ‘Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord. Peradventure there shall be twenty found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not destroy it for the twenty’s sake.’ And he said: ‘Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once. Peradventure ten shall be found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.’”

What I find absolutely wonderful in this passage is how Avraham not only argues with G-d about Sodom (well, he raises the question anyway), but how he makes it virtually impossible for G-d to deny him his request – he questions G-d’s sense of Justice! He points out to G-d that a truly Just G-d would consider sparing the people in Sodom on account of the righteous that might live in the city. By implcation he is telling G-d that if He destroys Sodom without taking into consideration even ten righteous people, He is a flawed G-d! There is no way Avraham can lose this. Now, Sodom was destroyed, but only because Lot’s family was short a few people.

How does this affect us? Well, first of all it teaches us that according to Torah, Justice without Compassion is no Justice, and that not even G-d may disregard this. Secondly it teaches us that questioning G-d is acceptable. It’s ok to reason with G-d and tell Him that whatever is going on is not ok by us. We might not be in a position to know first hand what G-d intends or to save ten people, but we certainly are in a position to tell G-d that we are questioning His actions, His sense of Justice and His  capacity for Compassion. Thirdly it teaches us that the Will of G-d is not cut in stone, that life is open-ended and it’s up to us to influence both G-d and events. G-d is actually interested in our points of view. We aren’t pre-destined by our genes or memes to be a certain way or live a certain life, what is in store for us around every new corner is ours to form. G-d will accept our decisions. He won’t do things “over our heads”.

Posted in Genesis 18:22-32, Torah | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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