We Made it Through the Wilderness

Numbers, You Sure Counted

Palm trees and desert
Actual photo of actual Abel-Shittim, on the plains of Moab: The forty-second and final encampment of the Israelites, in modern-day Abila in Jordan.

What the Israelites sang, sometimes grumblingly, as they walked from Hazeroth to Rithmah, from Rithmah to Rimmon-perez, from Rimmon-perez to Libnah. Sometimes they switched it up with "Route 66" or, if they were feeling particularly irritated with God and Moses that day, "Road to Nowhere."

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My friends. We did it. We have traversed the entire Book of Numbers. Bamidbar, as we call it– in the wilderness. Sometimes aimlessly, sometimes having a bit of a tantrum in there (it's been a rough go, OK??) but we have made it through.

Forty years of wandering. Forty-two encampments. Massive changes in generational leadership and perspective over that time. Growing, learning, through so many struggles and plenty of mistakes, how to grow into the needs of now. External, internal, and existential challenges. Liberation is a process.

We began by looking at the liminal nature of the wilderness state and the history of the Conquest Narrative. After that, the commandments and stories began to come fast and furious.

We started off with the suspected adulteress and probable induced abortion, and then looked at what it meant to take the holy time out of a nazirite vow. πŸ§”β€β™€οΈ And since Samson was the most famous Nazir of them all, we looked at some of the mythic tropes in his story, and I laid out my defense of Delilah βœ‚οΈ as a biblical heroine.

The Priestly Blessing dropped, so we saw the πŸ’« history and theology of Jewish amulet-making,✨ and then some contemporary efforts from the great Victoria Hanna. πŸͺ¬

Then, finally, the Israelites started walking– well, complaining, anyway, about how much they missed the alleged produce πŸ₯’ 🍈 back in Enslavement Days– and yikes, that resonated with conversations about institutions that long for days when they could harm without consequence or accountability.

Then there was a whole complicated scene with Miriam, Moses' Kushite wife, Moses, Aaron, God et al. We saw 16 understandings of the story outside white supremacy, and then grappled with the consequences for Miriam– like so many truth-telling women in history, and saw a couple of traditional sources on her time outside the camp. β›Ί β›Ί β›Ί

Then we used the story of the πŸ‡ scouts πŸ‡who came back with reports on the Promised Land as a chance to look at how our interpretations reveal and communicate a lot about our beliefs. After that, we tried to untangle the historical agendas behind Korach's rebellion. And, since everybody wants to peek when the ground opens up, we took a little detour to Sheol. πŸ•³οΈ

The commandment to bring a pure red heifer πŸ‚ meant we had to talk about apocalyptic Christian Zionism, the Jew-Christian zealot alliance 😱 and who it harms now, and the origins of the war of Gog and Magog idea.

Miriam died and Moses had to learn how to manage his grief and anger, ❀️‍πŸ”₯ Balaam learned to see people's humanity, and we met the brilliant Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah b'not Tzlofchad, πŸ’ͺ and were forced to ask some hard questions about systemic change. Then we looked at how Torah's maps can be the maps of our own lives. πŸ—ΊοΈ

A bunch of other things happened during that time, too.


.... I think after forty years, the Israelites don't really want to roam anymore? But this was great fun to sing from Libnah to Rissah, from Rissah to Kehelath, and from Kehelath to Mount Shepher.

If you're newer to this party and want to catch up, the here are the recap posts for:

Genesis πŸ’« πŸŒžπŸŒ” 🌍

Exodus πŸŒŠπŸ§‘β€πŸ€β€πŸ§‘πŸ‘«πŸ‘­πŸŒŠ

Leviticus 🐐🐐🐐🩸

Next up: A few weeks of delightful miscellaney, and then:



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