Friday, January 22, 2010

Random Musing Before Shabbat - Bo 5770-In the Middle of the Night

[Well, after a much needed vacation in Mexico, I ws finally back teaching Judaism to students this week and discovered that the spark is still there, despite layers of cynicism and despair. So there was inspiration enough for me to take a crack and writing a musing. Many of you, by the way, wrote very encouraging notes when I mentioned the doldrums that finally led me to take a few weeks hiatus from writing these musings. My thanks. Some even suggested that having to switch back to not working full-time doing Jewish things (though clearly I'm still doing them over and above my new full-time non-Jewish job) might give me some fresh perspectives. I can't yet that this is so, but I remember all too well that I started out writing these musings long before I was earning my living doing Jewish things full-time (with just a little music and theater on the side.) Maybe my new work in the independent cinema realm-with some Jewish and music stuff on the side-will prove equally good as a source of ideas for my musings as all those years in the theater. I know there will be exceptions, but my new employers has been pretty good so far insuring I get my Friday evenings and Saturday mornings off.]

Random Musing Before Shabbat - Bo 5770

In the Middle of the Night

Nine of the ten plagues were accomplished starting in the full light of day (even the 9th plague, that of darkness.) Yet, when we come to the 10th and final plague, the slaying of the first-born male children of Mitzraim (Egypt) we read:

29 In the middle of the night the Lord struck down all the first-born in the land of Egypt, from the first-born of Pharaoh who sat on the throne to the first-born of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the first-born of the cattle.

Why the choice to perform this "miracle" (yes, miracles can be negative) in the wee hours, under the cover of night? Was it an attempt to cover up the hideousness of the act? Did G"d weigh the potential "p.r." effects and determine that it might look bad to cause all these deaths in the cold light of day. (Yet G"d didn't flinch when causing the death of the remaining Egyptians who pursued the Israelites into the Sea of Reeds, so why would G"d be squeamish here?)

Pharaoh's soldiers did not hesitate to kill Hebrew male children in the cold light of day. Why would G"d hesitate to bring about retribution as out in the open as did Pharaoh?

Could it have been an attempt to be merciful, in an ironic sort of way? To see all their first-born males struck down dead in the cold light of day what certainly have been dramatic, yet perhaps needlessly cruel. Perhaps doing it at night, when many people often pass away peacefully in their sleep, was an attempt to mitigate the shock and awe? Can we really think of things ion such terms? Isn't mass murder mass murder, no matter the time of day?

The night is mysterious, or so people say. Was the setting chosen for such theatrics? Villains, murderers, and other scoundrels often perform their dirty and foul deeds under cover of night. Is it wrong to think of G"d as a villain, a mass murderer, in this context. (G"d instructing humans to kill others in battles, or as punishment for offenses, though somewhat a contradiction to the commandment to not murder, is not unusual, and the blame for such acts can truly be laid if the feet of the humans who obey G"d's commands (a lot of how you see this also depends on your interpretation and understanding of the banding and sacrifice of Isaac.) It's another matter entirely (or is it) when G"d acts directly to cause the death of human beings. (Of course, G"d has a track record here, what with the flood, with S'dom and Gomorrah, etc.)

There was an Egyptian god, Chons (or Khons) who, besides being the god of nigh time light, was also a god of male virility, and a god who oversaw the slaying of Pharaoh's enemies, extracting the innards and creating placenta from it. Plenty of symbolism here to prompt a biblical author (deity or human) to set this final plague in the night. Nevertheless, why would G"d care about showing up a "non-god?"

So we're back to wondering why G"d chose to do this deed at night. I haven't got a clue. what about you? (Time to turn these musings into a dialog again.)

Shabbat Shalom,

©2010 by Adrian A. Durlester

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