(Please note: I made a biblical error. Eager to write a couple of “My Word!” columns before vacation I got fahblunjet. Last week’s column about Balaam should have been for the eBlast of July 17. This past week’s Torah portion dealt with Korach, far more rotten than Balaam in that he attempted a coup. He lost. I’ll try to be more careful. I apologize. Here’s My Word! for this week:)
Moses got sick and tired of the constant whining of the Israelites. He struck the rock to get water which they clamored for despite the fact that he had been ordered peak to the rock. You don’t mess with what the good Lord tells you to do, even if you’re Moses. His punishment was cruel…he was not permitted to enter the Promised Land, his goal, indeed his dream ever since he began his leadership of the Israelites.
Some sages said that we must look for other reasons since, they too maintained, this wasn’t God’s way. You really had to tick-off God for so horrific a punishment, and this didn’t seem like such an act. There’s got to be something else.
What they put forth was the way Moses made himself known after he fled Egypt, after he killed the taskmaster. Yitro (Jethro), his soon-to-be father-in-law, was told “an Egyptian gave us water to drink”; he initially didn’t know Moses was in fact a Hebrew because Moses wanted it that way. That, posited the sages, was reason enough to deny Moses his most fervent wish.
It’s interesting to understand how important identity is. Admitting you’re a Jew might result in confusion for some - absurd confusion in certain cases - but by saying, “I am a Jew” affirms you know who and what you are. You’re not hiding it; you’re proud of it.
“Absurd confusion”?? A student of mine told me that when his teacher found out he was Jewish, she asked to speak to him in the hallway. She requested (ready for this?!) to see his horns. Fortunately, this very young man respectfully told his teacher, “Yes, I’m a Jew, but you should know that Jews don’t have horns. “
Daniel Pearl, the journalist beheaded by ISIS 17 years ago, publicly stated on video before his murder, “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.” Daniel Pearl was proud to be a Jew although he knew that this for sure would lead to his death. If he was to die, he wanted to die as a Jew!