Thoughts on Exodus (Part 2)

Ok, my bad. We got back from Taiwan and I immediately had a meltdown over having our first anniversary at home with nothing planned, so we made a last-minute trip to the woods and spent last week blissfully wifi-free, and I forgot to schedule stuff to pre-post, so that’s where that lag came from. And this past Monday I was going to post the final installment of Fundiementals, but I spent all day formatting the second draft of my play for my beta readers (Space. Space. Tab. Indent. Space. Space. Tab. Indent. Repeat. Etc. For Eight. Freaking. Hours. – “Her Story in Blood” – coming soon!), so I apologize that blog upkeep has gotten a little away from me.

Fundiementals 5 WILL be returning THIS Monday, I PROMISE, and here are the rest of my thoughts on Exodus in the meantime:

Matzah. Yum. Click thru for explanation of Passover.

Chapter 12 – During the final plague in Egypt, the Israelites are instructed to make bread without yeast and basically eat as if they’ll have to drop everything at any moment and run. Eating in haste like this is in stark contrast to the advice I got from my last church which was to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry.” But this just demonstrates that there is a time for all things: a time to eliminate hurry and a time to practice haste lest the moment get away from you.

And what do you do after passing supernaturally through a sea? Naturally, you dance! And sing! The arts mark special occasions.

Chapter 18 – I hope to always have a Jethro in my life who will sit down with me and say “Stop! Why are you killing yourself with all this unnecessary work? Break it down and delegate!”

The commitment to remember God first and also the commandments to honor your father and mother remind me of the principle in God Revised (which I reviewed here) where he was talking about the utter dependence of everything on everything else. I that’s what these two commandments are about for me. Remembering that your initial existence owes nothing to your own efforts, and your continued existence only relies on your own efforts in combination with an extraordinary chain of happy circumstances – the continued seasonal cycles, crops that grow, rain that falls, rivers that don’t dry up, etc. Remembering that God is your source for everything and remembering that he chose to make you further dependent on those around you too; you could not exist without the explicit cooperation of your parents. Even if you have really terrible parents (and I’m not saying that if you’re parents were abusive or neglectful or whatever that you can’t be angry and set good boundaries), to remember that your existence, up to a point, entirely rested upon their good graces. Helps keep me rooted in gratitude and helps keep my hands open because it reminds me how little I ultimately have control over.

Chapters 25, 26, and 27 are all about building the tabernacle, and when I first started reading them they remind me of iKEA directions without the benefit of the diagrams.

Credit to

Credit to

There are a ton of these. Google “IKEA instructions funny.” Or at least click through here to see “Litsabbur.”

I have trouble visualizing it in my head, and it’s about as exciting to read as you would expect iKEA directions to be, and I imagine it was kind of a nightmare to build without the diagrams. (Although, as a  side note, it occurs to me that there may have originally been diagrams, because it says a couple of times “Do this how I showed you on the mountain,” so maybe God drew diagrams for Moses? I don’t know.) But then I also started thinking this is not really like an iKEA piece of furniture – it’s more like the 9/11 memorial. And you know when you go to visit the 9/11 memorial, there’s going to be a whole section that will detail every step of the process – the designers, materials, techniques, and people involved – so it’s really more like that. It’s detailing this very, very important, momentous project that these people took on, at the very beginning of their freedom, a project which must have helped define them as a people in those nascent days. I think of how bonded I always got with theater casts – everyone gets so close, and you feel so affectionate for all these people that you didn’t even know six weeks ago, and you have all these shared stories and inside jokes and complaints that have glued you together as a community because of how many freakin’ hours you’ve sacrificed to this project for the last two months of your life. I imagine it was like that, and all these detailed instructions, repeated several times, are sort of like the theater cast sitting around re-hashing, in loving detail, every last rehearsal moment, every instant of inspiration, every stroke of paint that made strangers into a family.

At the end of chapter 27, I like how it says that Aaron and his sons are to keep the lamps burning before the Lord from evening to morning. There was always light in the darkness at the tabernacle.

Chapter 29 – any unused meat after a sacrifice was to be burned, not stored, eaten, or re-distributed. I wonder if this had partly to do with trust, like the injunction to not hoard manna 6 days of the week. If the meat had to be eaten daily or burned, it would have engendered trust in the idea “I have enough.” It would have practically prohibited unholy gain by re-selling the meat to anyone who might have thought it lucky or possessing magical powers, or kept as security; the security would always be in the Lord.

Ch. 30 – All that talk of incense made me want some. Burnt some jasmine for the first time in more than a year, and it was lovely.

Ch. 31 – I love how the artists responsible for making the tabernacle were named and praised in the scripture itself – their service was deemed important enough to record.

Chapter 32 – The Golden Calf. I always wondered – why a calf? It always seemed so random to me as a child. Why on earth would you worship a cow? I mean, they’re cute and all, but powerful? C’mon. It would have made more sense if they had built a golden lamb, seeing as how that was the means by which the last plague passed over them in Egypt. I would understand mistaking the means and symbol of salvation (the lamb’s blood) for the source (God). Maybe (probably?) it had something to do with the Egyptian collection of animal gods, but I’m not educated enough in ancient Near Eastern religions to be able to comment intelligently on this.

Weird negotiation between Moses and God, where Moses convinces God not to destroy the Israelites by asking “What would Egypt think?” Maybe WWET bracelets will be the next new thing…

I always laugh at Aaron’s response when Moses confronts him about the Golden Calf (which Aaron is responsible for making) –

“I don’t know, I just put the gold in the fire, and out came this calf!”

Again, I am reminded of teaching –

“I don’t know how Susie’s chocolate bar ended up in my mouth, I just found it there and started chewing!”

The bloody purge recorded here is distressing, and I don’t know what to do with it. Moses comes off looking much more compassionate than God, which doesn’t really make any sense theologically. Although, honestly, I find that I’m relating to God’s wrath here more than I anticipated – I’ve certainly wanted to annihilate a class or two that was running wild, despite my careful and thorough and deliberate and persistent and exhausting attempts to bring them to heel. (I’m sorry, was I not supposed to admit that? I forgot. Teachers all love all children wholly and unconditionally and with perfect patience at all times and in all circumstances. Even when they’re mean cretins).

Chapter 33 (vs. 15) – I say this prayer all the time – God, please don’t send me unless you’ll be with me.

That whole story with God putting Moses in a cleft in the rock and passing by – deeply creepy, and I feel like there’s so much meaning hidden in the imagery, but it’s opaque to me.

Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk – repeated several times. (Repeated more times, in fact, once you count Deuteronomy, than the Levitical injunction for a man not to lay with a man. We throw out kosher law, but we keep the heteronormative sexual assumption? But that’s a conversation for another time….)

All kinds of ways to eat more consciously. Click through for more.

Back to goats- a way of remembering the earth around you and treating all creation with respect. Also the beginning of food activism and justice. Roots here not just for kosher thought, but also vegetarianism, and other aspects of conscious eating. Thinking about what your food means, what it says about your compassion and values. Thinking about the feelings (so to speak) of the baby goat. And really, what is a cheeseburger but a mother or baby cow fried up in its own breastmilk? Kinda nasty when you look at it that way. And I am, regretfully, a great lover of cheeseburgers.

Ew. Good article, though, on food sustainability, if you click through.


1 Comment

Filed under religion

One response to “Thoughts on Exodus (Part 2)

  1. I appreciate your curious and insightful narrative through a well worn bit of Scripture. I am a bit jealous of your ability to be free enough to question and allow the text to question you…

    Love ya

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