Ethics Now & Then 79 – Avot 5:6

Avot 5:6  With ten trials did our ancestors test the Holy One, Blessed is He, in the Wilderness, as it is said, “They have tested Me these ten times and did not heed my voice” (Numbers 14:22).OGOL_med-01

With ten trials did our ancestors test the Holy One, Blessed is He, in the Wilderness, as it is said, “They have tested Me these ten times and did not heed my voice” (Numbers 14:22).

Afer the miraculous deliverance at the Exodus from Egypt, we see the former slaves, now redeemed as a nation, being tried in their long and arduous journey through the wilderness. They are in a totally new environment, far from the waters of the Nile and the ‘leeks and onions’ they had enjoyed even as slaves. In addition, they now are freed from the mind-numbing routine of slavery that blurred their days. They need to occupy themselves much of the time and make decisions for themselves and their famiies.  Despite the wonders they had experienced, we find that their trials were not faced without much complaining and resentment; and even with disobedience to the instructions of God.  Maybe this was progress? Disobedience was not an option for a slave!

The pattern of their trials can be found according to the following Scriptures:

1. Exodus 14:11, 30  – The Israelites blamed Moses for bringing them out to die in the wilderness before they crossed the Reed Sea.

2. Exodus 15:23-24 At the bitter waters of Marah they complained at not having water to drink.

3. Exodus 16:3 – They complain that Moses had brought them into the wilderness to die of hunger.

4. Exodus 16:20 – They disobey Moses’ command to not keep any manna collected on one day until the following day.

5. Exodis 16:27  – They disobey God’s command to collect a double portion of manna on the sixth day and to not collect any on the Sabbath day.

6. Exodus 17:1-2 Agan, at Rephidim, they bitterly complain about no water and accuse Moses of bringing them into the wlderness to die of thirst.

7. Exodus 17:7 – At Meribah they quarreled and questioned whther the Lord was with them or not.

8. Numbers 11:4-5, 10 At Taberah they complain about the manna and weep that there is no meat to eat.

9. Exodus 32 – Idol worship – The Sin of the Golden Calf

10. Numbers 13 -14  – Lack of faith and doubting God’s word to them – The Sin of the Ten Spies

The trials faced were new and removed from the realm of their previous experience of cruel oppression. They were learinng the acceptance of responsibility, to stand on their own feet. They needed to make the paradigm shift in understanding that their new Master was not a cruel, cold and removed Pharoah, who devised ways to diminish and extort them, but rather a loving, compassionate Father whose every thought was for their good and upbuilding; their healing and wholeness.

As often is quoted, in effect: “He could take the slaves out of Egypt but it was not so easy to take Egypt out of the slaves.” The underlying lesson the Israelites needed to learn – as do we all –  is that He did not create us as slaves but as those with a free will and the right and ability to make choices.  As God says, “I have placed before you life and death. Choose life!” (Deuteronomy 30:19).  Only God Himself sees the big picture of life and we cannot choose the circumstances we face, nor can we explain the paradoxes that  so often are a part of  life. We often cannot determine the outcome of our actions. However, the choices we can and do make every day – for good and for life – are up to us.

2 thoughts on “Ethics Now & Then 79 – Avot 5:6

  1. As I pondered what you wrote, I remembered something a read several years ago about an ecological experiment where plants and trees were grown under a dome and not subjected to the weather. When the dome was removed, the trees could not stand under the force of the wind. Lesson — we need some forms of “adversity” to be able to grow in faith and withstand the “winds” of life while staying rooted in a life with the Lord.

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