Thursday, June 9, 2011

It's Not About the Fish

Almost two months ago, we sat around the Seder table and read the story of how G-d redeemed the Israelites from slavery in the land of Egypt.  With signs and wonders, spectacle and fanfare, thousands of us marched away from a life of oppression, never to turn back, singing songs of praise.

As the Israelites marched on,  the few possessions they were schlepping along with them probably started to feel pretty heavy. Their feet probably started to really hurt after a few days. They've practically never met this guy who's now leading them. They don't know where they're going, and they couldn't go back to where they came from even if they wanted to. They didn't have real roofs over their heads, and, oh yeah - the desert is hot.  Really, really hot.

To top it all off, the only thing they have to eat - the ONLY thing - is manna. G-d drops it out of the sky, and it tastes INCREDIBLE, but when it's the only thing you have to eat, no matter how you grind, chop, puree, bake, sautee, or roast, it's going to get old.

Now, the Israelites are really grateful and all,  but before they knew it, they were trapped in a sneaky hate spiral of epic proportions. Most of them keep it in check, but some of them complain.

4 The rabble with them began to crave other food, and again the Israelites started wailing and said, “If only we had meat to eat! 5 We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. 6 But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Numbers 11)

Moses says to G-d: "Seriously? You want me to deal with this? Because it is not my job to put up with temper tantrums."
(This is what the Israelites looked like when they were whining about fish. No joke.)

So G-d says, "Look, I can do anything.  Literally. I'll send you guys enough meat to open up a BBQ Palace in the middle of the desert if that's what you really want."

Then Moses says something incredible: "No matter how much you send, it will never be enough."

Meaning: "This kvetching is not about the fish, or the veggies.  It's not  about the heat or the schlep. It's not even about a bad attitude. It's about a lack of faith that everything will be okay. It's about fear, raw and open, that bleeds into every other aspect of their lives, and finally makes them whine and cry about FISH."

It's easy for us to look at this story, shake our heads, and say, "They should have had faith.  They should have trusted G-d. He already showed them how almighty He was, basically in person.  They should have just eaten that manna, shut up, and kept on trucking."

How many of us have complained, whined, and cried about the fish? It's funny - if you're a person of faith, you know G-d's got your back, and yet there's always doubt, doubt that comes from living life and watching sorrow and tragedy unfold, that lives in our human brains, and whispers, "Maybe it won't be okay. Maybe  He's not even really out there."

 I know I've felt like this, at some times more than others. We're still struggling with complaining about the fish.  Is it something that makes us more human, or something we should work hard to change?  Is it something that comes more naturally to some than others? All I know is that we're still at it, I'm still at it, and I don't even have to schlep all my stuff through the desert.

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