We conclude the reading of Bamidbar (Numbers) this week. Over the course of the book, the children of Israel spend approximately 40 years in the desert, camping in 42 different places, each of which is mentioned in Masei, the second of this week’s two parshiyot.
The book of Bamidbar, literally “in the desert” or “in the wilderness,” is a hard book to read. Over and over, plagues break out and thousands are killed. The reason, we are told, is a pronounced lack of faith in God. I found the repeated spilling of Israelite blood difficult, to say the least, until Bible scholar Adriane Leveen put it into mythic perspective for me.
Once, I was a revolutionary. I belonged to the generation of long hair and crazy ideas. We did more than invent rock music and protest an unjust war. We believed that we could create a new society, populated by new people -- people freed of the prejudices and life-choking rigidities of the past. We believed that we could change the world, and bring greening to America.
America did change. But our dream went unfulfilled.