תַזְרִיעַ / מְּצֹרָע
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov wrote a story about how a dead fish ruined a man’s life. To be honest, it was not the fish itself, but what happened when this particular man encountered it. Chekhov opens “A Slander” by explaining that Sergei Kapitonich Ahineev, a writing instructor, is enjoying the celebration of his daughter’s wedding at a great feast. As time for supper approaches Ahineev goes into the kitchen to see if everything is ready. He asks Marfa, the cook, to show him the centerpiece of the banquet, a fine sturgeon, and at its unveiling is overcome with delight at the aroma and presentation of the great fish. The sight of it moves Ahineev to smack his lips, a sound much like a kiss. Just at that moment, one of his colleagues, Vankin, looks in and makes a joke about Marfa and Ahineev kissing. Apparently thinking nothing further about it, Vankin moves off to rejoin the party. Ahineev, however, is mortified that Vankin would think he was kissing the cook, and anticipates that he will be spreading that story to the guests. Determined to prevent such a slander, Ahineev makes the rounds of the party, telling everyone he can that there was nothing to the story Vankin would be spreading about him kissing Marfa in the kitchen. In the process, he describes both Vankin and Marfa in the most unflattering terms, calling him a silly fool, and her a perfect fright whom no one would care to kiss.
Having completed his self-appointed task of circumventing Vankin’s anticipated slander, Ahineev settles down to enjoy the rest of the celebration. All is well until a few days later, when his headmaster calls him into the office and reprimands him about his indiscretion not only in having an affair with his cook, but also in being so public about it. Truly scandalized, Ahineev goes home at the end of the day, only to face the anger of his wife at his supposed unfaithfulness. Angered himself, Ahineev leaves immediately to confront Vankin, the man he supposes has spread this false tale. Yet that confrontation does not turn out as he expects, for Vankin’s sincere denial convinces Ahineev that he is innocent of the gossip. Puzzled, Ahineev reviews the list of his acquaintances, frantically asking himself who might have ruined his reputation.
To the reader there is no mystery about the guilty party: it is Ahineev himself. By spreading rumors about his colleague and his servant, he has made himself an outcast. In other words, Ahineev has become a social leper. And in presenting the hapless writing instructor to us in this way, Chekhov helps us understand the deeper meaning of the Torah’s instructions about leprosy.
A standard feature of civilization is the rules of the house, the guidelines by which a person can be welcomed into and remain peacefully within someone’s home. At the most basic level these are rules children learn from their parents at the earliest age. Parents explain proper behavior and children grow up doing what they have said, or suffering the consequences if they disobey. As adults the children pass on these rules to their children so they may act properly when visiting Grandma and Grandpa. This maintains peace in the family, not only ensuring respect for the elders, but establishing and reinforcing a foundation for loving relationships.
If this is so, then how should we approach The Cat in the Hat? Since its publication in 1957 by Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), The Cat in the Hat has become one of the world’s most popular and successful children’s books. Geisel wrote it as an attempt to find an easier way for children to learn to read, but his creation has become much more than that; the Cat is now a cultural icon. The book has everything that would appeal to children: an engaging story told in simple, silly rhyme, colorful illustrations, and an outrageous degree of irreverence for the house rules. The story opens with a rainy day in a normal house, where a Boy and his sister Sally are left at home with nothing to do while their Mother is out. Suddenly their quiet boredom is interrupted by the entrance of the Cat who promises, “Lots of good fun that is funny”. He then proceeds to violate every rule of the house by using everything he sees – including the pet Fish in its bowl – as a plaything. Just when we think it can get no worse, the Cat introduces his friends Thing 1 and Thing 2. The three anarchic intruders accelerate the mayhem, and in a very short time everything that is sacred, including Mother’s new gown and her bedroom furniture, have suffered violence. At the height of the disaster, the Fish alerts the children to the approach of their Mother and urges them to do something to stop the destruction. The Boy jumps into action, grabbing a large net with which he captures the Things and orders the Cat to pack them up and take them away.
With the intruders gone, the children and the Fish contemplate how to clean up the enormous mess. To their surprise, the Cat returns with a machine that puts everything back in order just in time. Thus The Cat in the Hat ends on a good note, with the house rules mended. Yet that is not the end of the lesson. While Dr. Seuss may not have intended it, his story resembles the tale of another Son concerned about violation of the house rules established by His Parent:
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves. And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.” (Matthew 21:12-13 NASB)
Of all the pharaohs who ruled Egypt over the course of ancient history, only one had the dubious honor of facing Moses in a contest to see whose God was greater. We may not know exactly which pharaoh he was, but he most certainly was not Ramesses II. Such is filmmaker Timothy Mahoney’s conclusion in his astounding documentary, Patterns of Evidence: Exodus. Mahoney presents a compelling case for reconsidering the accepted timeline of ancient Egyptian history. He bases his case on considerable evidence that Israel’s presence in Egypt, the Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan actually happened two or three hundred years earlier than has been supposed.
For centuries we have assumed that Raamses II was the Pharaoh of the Exodus because of this verse:
So they appointed taskmasters over them to afflict them with hard labor. And they built for Pharaoh storage cities, Pithom and Raamses. (Exodus 1:11 NASB)
Indeed there was a city named Raamses (or Ramesses) in Goshen, the region of Egypt where the Hebrews lived, but it was not known by that name in the days when the Hebrews lived there. Underneath the ruins of Raamses are the ruins of an even older city called Avaris. The archaeological evidence indicates that a Semitic people lived there, that they were at one point prosperous and powerful, that they became enslaved, and that they left quite suddenly. However, until now no one has seriously considered that these were the Hebrews simply because the evidence at Avaris does not fit the accepted Egyptian chronology. Yet if we were to adjust that chronology a bit based not only on the discoveries at Avaris, but also on discoveries elsewhere in Egypt, as well as in Canaanite cities such as Jericho, evidence of the Exodus would abound. Furthermore, such a chronological adjustment would resolve numerous gaps and mysteries in the chronologies of other ancient civilizations. Mahoney has done a fine job gathering and presenting his evidence. No doubt there will be many questions and much debate on his conclusions, but his presentation merits serious review and investigation.
It is probably no coincidence that Patterns of Evidence appeared just as the Torah cycle is working through the Exodus story. Although not as visually stunning as Mahoney’s cinematography, AlephBeta Academy’s video offerings impart considerable understanding of God’s workings among the people of Egypt and Israel. It may surprise Christian viewers to learn that Judaism embraces the doctrine of free will, and that the account of the Ten Plagues reveals the workings of free will in the context of God’s ultimate sovereignty. Watch these two videos as Rabbi David Fohrman explains these profound concepts in a very Jewish way.
© Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog, 2014-2015. Permission to use and/or duplicate original material on The Barking Fox Blog is granted, provided that full and clear credit is given to Albert J. McCarn and The Barking Fox Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Another common misunderstanding in Christian teaching is that grace has no place in the Old Testament, and certainly not in the Jewish perception of humanity’s relationship with the Creator. Permit Rabbi David Forhman to blow that misunderstanding out of the water. Not only does he explain grace as well or better than any Christian teacher I have ever heard, he also addresses the reason life in the womb is precious to our God and worthy of our protection.
Here are some things that seldom come together in the same sentence: genealogy, Israel’s tribes, Apostle Paul, Moses and Aaron, Ruth and Boaz, the Holy Spirit, and Torah. What could these all have in common? They all come together in the Feast of Weeks, known in Hebrew as Shavuot, and in Greek as Pentecost. Together they reveal to us is God’s plan to bless every family and nation on earth.
Is it possible that Jews could teach Christians about the Bible? Could Jews even teach Christians something about their own theology? If Christians have the revelation of Jesus Christ (Yeshua the Messiah), then what more is there that Jews could teach them?
How about this: Jews can teach us the depths of God’s interaction with mankind from the beginning of time. They can do this because Jews have received the oracles of God. The Creator of the Universe has given to the Jews a number of things that Christians think only they have received. The Apostle Paul lists these special things in Romans 9:1-5 –
There is in the middle of Paul’s letter to Rome a window into the apostle’s heart. Listen to the passion and urgency of a man who grieves that his own people, blessed in every way, have yet to recognize their Messiah:
I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen. (Romans 9:1-5 NKJV)
Why should Christians study Torah? Here is one excellent example. The Apostle Paul explains that the oracles of God have been committed to the Jews (Romans 3:1-2). There is a depth of understanding about the Word of God and the God of the Word that the Jewish sages have grasped for millennia, and which Christians are only now beginning to rediscover. Take a look at this 10-minute teaching from Rabbi David Forhman of AlephBeta Academy and see if it imparts to you an understanding of why we exist that you may not have considered before. After you have viewed it, meditate on I Corinthians 6:19-20. I guarantee this will be a delight to your soul.