Desert Island Texts: No 46

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Desert Island Texts: No 46

Desert Island Texts
Desert Island Texts

This week, Lucian J Hudson, chairman of Liberal Judaism, selects Numbers 20 and Deuteronomy 3Desert Island Texts

My favourite story is about God telling Moses he is never to reach the Promised Land. It can be found in Numbers 20 and Deuteronomy 3.

According to the former, Moses is being punished for his individual sin of striking the rock with his rod when instead he should have spoken to it, trusting the power of the word spoken in the name of God.

According to the latter, Moses is punished because, as his people’s leader, he suffers their fate, following the faithless majority in not entering Canaan. It is not obvious what the exact reasons are for God’s decision.

This is gripping drama, true to the human condition. Whatever we do, we can do only so much, and we reap what we sow.

After all that Moses has done, this is Israel’s leader receiving his (just) desserts. Even Moses is not exempt from God’s justice.

In a nutshell, we have Judaism and its questing and questioning dimensions starkly exposed. Moses pleads, but is told: “Enough!” But enough in one sense is “plenty”. That is as good as it gets for Moses.

These passages are eternally problematic and spiritually challenging. Accepting our just desserts is itself liberating. Desserts is “stressed” spelt backwards.

How apt for our society that becomes often unduly stressed.

• Lucian J Hudson is chairman of Liberal Judaism

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