The Promised Land, and its malcontents.
In the story of Moses, the aging Moses needs water for his people. Jehovah tells Moses to speak to a rock, but Moses strikes the rock twice. Jehovah lets the water flow, so the Jews can drink, but the cost is that Moses can’t enter the Promised Land.
This story is a cliché now, but I think we use it wrongly. It’s not about authority punishing misbehavior, but about the failure to change.
When the Jews are enslaved, anger and rebellion free them, at a horrible cost. One wonders if Jehovah, who created the Egyptians too, actually chose the angel of death. Maybe Jehovah just let Moses into the divine armory, to choose whatever weapon he thought best – and at the time, “by any means necessary” was enough justification for Jehovah to accept his choice.
Forty years later, not so much. For the independent Jewish people, forced by their years in the wilderness to survive on their own, now ready to build a new land, rebellion risks their new social order. Moses’s anger and rebellion have no place here. They are no longer liberating, only destructive, for there is no longer an other to escape, to destroy. This is not to say that the Jews will never need rebellion, but as the story of David later shows, it will never again be an unalloyed good.
I am an angry person. It had a use, growing up with angry parents damaged by childhood war, parents who never quite understood where they ended and where I began. My anger kept me from being buried alive by their lives.
Still, I only learned reaction and escape. No one would change for me. Change was impossible, only rupture. I withstood, I tolerated, far too much, then lashed out.
Now I have people in my life who would prefer to know my first problem (or, my third, maybe) instead of hearing all of them at once when the unswallowable tenth makes my heart vomit. My anger was also indulged by an androcentric, authoritarian culture, in a way it no longer will be, at least not from a well-off white male floating on his privilege like on a palanquin made of clouds.
Alas my only Jehovah is my weak crabby heart, and I am already living in a promised land. I just don’t know how, in my case, to stop screaming at rocks and to start talking to them.
Or, rather, I do know how. I just don’t trust it yet. I despair that I ever will.