There is no doubt that many readers would prefer to skip the final sections of the Book of Exodus. The book’s last two sections: VaYakel and Pkudei (Exodus 33:1-40:38) are not easy to read. Indeed, if one of the lessons of the Book of Exodus is that life is a struggle, then these two sections underline this point by making it a struggle to read through them. In these two sections, the reader suffers through a great amount of detail regarding the sanctuary, the clothing to be used in it, the materials for the priestly breastplates, and the holy table. This litany of detail ends with a cloud hovering over the “Ohel-moed” (Meeting ten) and the instructions that the Israelites were only to travel without this cloud by day and they were to camp with a celestial fire by night.
The whole scenario seems to be more than a bit confusing. Furthermore, the Hebrew reader cannot help but note the linguistic similarities between this section and the beginning of the book of Genesis. Just as in Genesis, we now read about a self-generating light. Fire (energy and matter mixed as one) is no different from the earth’s ultimate power generator, the sun. Just as in Genesis, power can be both proactive (the sun) and reactive, the moon or in Exodus’ case the cloud. In these chapters of Exodus, we see a reversal in the reactive and proactive symbolized by the escape to freedom. The Hebrew reader will also see the similarity between the words anan (cloud) and the verb anah, meaning: “to force an answer” or “to torture”. In a like manner, both sections note that to live is to struggle. Jacob had to struggle to become Israel, and in the desert, the children of Israel would struggle to enter into the Promised Land.
The book of Exodus then reminds us that to be a slave is to put one’s mind on hold, to follow orders, to live with nothing more than details. To be free means challenging the status quo, to question, to struggle to understand, and to go beyond our laziness to become more than we think we are capable of being.
The careful (Hebrew) reader of Exodus will often find clues indicating that Genesis and Exodus are two sides of the same coin. On one side we have the creation of a world, our world, and on the other side, we have the birth of our people. Both stories remind us of both positives and negatives, in both tales life struggles “to become”, in both there is reactive and proactive tension, and both live for a future that is yet to be born. In this sense, Exodus, like Genesis, is a book about hope and struggles. Their lesson is that we must not merely pray for the best outcome, but must work on a daily basis to create the best outcomes. These books challenge us “to be” and to go beyond our past and strive to create a better future. How do they challenge you?
Did you see this on the news?
How Israel trauma experts helped the students at Parkland High:
Philosophy article for March
Here is my monthly philosophy article, published in the March 3, 2018, edition of the Bryan Eagle.
Youtubes of the week:
The song Heveinu Shalom Aleichem in many versions
Heveinu Shalom Aleichem (Spanish Version):
Heveinu Shalom Aleichem (Russian Version):
Heveinu Shalom Aleichem (Chinese Version):
Heveinu Shalom Aleichem (Belgium Version):
Heveinu Shalom Aleichem (USA Version):