The Torah reading this week is from the jawbreakingly named “Behaalotecha,” which basically means, “Roll up for the Mystery Tour.” And talk about weird and scattered.
We start with Aaron getting orders from Yahweh to light the tabernacle’s candelabra every day. But not just any old candelabra- Yahweh is a god of taste, refinement, and distinction. THAT candelabra has to be made of hammered gold, presumably by a hammered goldsmith. But Yahweh is never simple, and the instructions start getting more and more ornate. The next thing that has to be done is getting the Levites assembled. But before they can assemble, they have to ritually bathe and shave themselves. Not just their beards, we’re talking full Brazilian. Dingleberries are common in the desert, but they are not kosher fruit. Once cleaned, shaved, and assembled, all the other Jews have to surround them and do the Wave. I am not bullshitting, this is the stuff that Yahweh thrives on, much like Moses and macaroni pictures. Afterwards, the Levites are supposed to lay hands on a couple of calves, and in the inverse of the Christian ritual of healing via laying on of hands, the calves are killed.
Nothing is simple with Yahweh.
Now this seems like a lot of work for Aaron, but the whole point is that the Levites now have to pitch in and do this work as well, interspersed with bathing and shaving and getting the Wave. It’s no fun being a Levite.
In the manner of a book written by an Aspie, suddenly we’ve changed the subject, and now we’re talking about Pesach. See, there’s weird taboos about touching dead bodies, and a bunch of guys who touched dead bodies (I think they were people with legitimate functions, not corpse-fuckers) pointed out that because they were ritually unclean and had to sit outside the city for 7 days, they missed all the Pesach fun. They said to Moses, “This sucks! Here we are doing our jobs, following the rules, and what happens? We get punished for it! We want the goddamn 4 cups of wine and matzo brei!” Moses, being the corporate lackey that he was, nodded and said, “Yeah, that’s a good point. Let me kick this one upstairs and see what the Boss says.” Moses got past the secretary and managed to ask the Boss, “OK, these guys are doing what we’re telling them to do, how do we deal with this?” Yahweh, who despite other flaws was a reasonably competent HR manager, thought about it and responded, “Good point, I guess we hadn’t thought that one through. Tell ya what, if someone misses out on the Pesach fun because they touched a body or they were on a long trip and couldn’t get back in time, we can have a Make-Up Pesach. We’ll make it, I dunno, maybe a month later. yeah, that’s the ticket. But let me be clear- this is for corpse-touchers and frequent flyers only. If you missed the fun because you were procrastinating, fuck you.”
SCREEEECH! We change the subject again, now to tents, clouds, and trumpets. Not just any trumpets, hammered silver trumpets, presumably made by a hammered silversmith. This is all the shit involved in telling the Jews when to stay and when to get moving, using hammered silver trumpets as the signal. I mean, 40 years wandering around, that’s going to take some direction, and the bugle hadn’t been invented yet. Of course, bugles are brass anyway, and that’s kind of insulting to Yahweh. In any case, after a year in the same spot, the Jews all started moving again.
SCREEEEECH! Just as you were getting comfortable… Jews start whining and complaining. First, they whined at Yahweh. “Manna for breakfast, manna for lunch, manna for dinner, we’re getting damn sick of this. And all the walking! Isn’t there a nice chair somewhere and maybe some meat? Kreplach would be nice, but a brisket would do.” That pissed Yahweh off a bit, and he returned the favor by raining down fire. So the whining got redirected to Moses, who was lacking in the raining-down-fire department. There were six hundred thousand whiners involved in this, which was a bit much for Moses to handle alone. So he did what any good middle manager would do and complained to HIS boss. “These people are driving me fucking nuts. I can’t get anything done because I’m busy listening to one whiner after another.” Yahweh nodded and said, “OK, I’ll authorize a headcount increase. Hire seventy people for the Complaint Department. And by the way, I have a little trick up my sleeve…” Remember the famous Mencken quote about the definition of democracy? Well, it wasn’t original with him, Yahweh got there first. And channeling a speech from the future (omniscients can be ruthless plagiarizers), Yahweh said, “We’re going to get meat. We’re going to get so much meat. We’re going to get so much meat, you’re going to be so sick and tired of meat, you’re going to come to me and go ‘Please, please, we can’t eat any more meat.’ You’ve heard this one. You’ll say ‘Please, Yahweh, we beg you sir, we don’t want to get any more meat. It’s too much. It’s not fair to everybody else.’ And I’m going to say ‘I’m sorry, but we’re going to keep getting meat, getting meat, getting meat, we’re going to make the Children of Israel great again.’”
And to prove his point, Yahweh inundated the Jews with quail. They set upon it like a freshly-baked stoner on a plate of chocolate chip cookies. “Poultry, this is more like it!” As always, though, Yahweh was a consummate asshole and managed to infect all the quail with the Plague. “HAR HAR HAR, THE JOKE IS ON YOU, WHINY HEBES!”
SCREEEEEECH! Just when you think there’s a theme developing, we suddenly change directions again. Moses’s sister, Miriam, and his brother, Aaron, started their own complaints. “That fucking brother of ours married a shiksa, but he still gets all the glory while we get bupkis.” Do NOT dis Yahweh’s favorite middle manager because that’s gonna piss Yahweh off royally. And it did. So Miriam get hit with leprosy. This freaked out Moses, who said to Yahweh, “Look, she’s a meddlesome Jewess, but she IS my sister. Can you let up a bit before her hands fall off or something? And since you left Aaron alone, we might be open to a sex discrimination suit. Satan does have all the lawyers, after all…” In the interests of worker morale and staying out of court, Yahweh said, “Look, she has to be taught a lesson. How about she just has leprosy for a week?” Moses thought about that, and said, “Yeah, I guess a suspension is better than termination.” So Miriam had to stand outside the city for a week until it went away, and she managed to save most of her hands and feet. Aaron still skated. For now.
Yahweh has a tough job, head of HR.