From north of the Galilee

As we discussed in another blog, when someone curses, (קלל), he is insulting, despising, dishonoring, treating with contempt, or considering him to be of little account.  But the result is that the person “cursed” (אאר) will find themselves exposed to God’s light (אר). Who they are, and what they do is exposed by God, to everyone – which includes others, as well as to themselves if they are willing to look.

But what does this actually mean – to be cursed, or exposed? Isn’t God a God of forgiveness and love?  After all, it says:

“The Lord, the Lord, God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and truth, extending kindness for thousands of generations, forgiving sin, rebellion, and error…”

But then it goes on, “but who does not acquit the guilty, holding descendants to account for the sins of the fathers, children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7

In other words, God does not always forgive and forget.

In the reading of the Torah, we are now at the end of Genesis. At this point, Jacob has called all his sons together to tell them what will happen to them in the days to come. With regard to Shimon and Levi, he states:

“Shimon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence [חָמָס = Hamas] their wares.  Let me never join their council, nor my honor be of their assembly.  For in their anger they killed men; at their whim they hamstrung oxen.  Cursed be their anger, for it is most fierce, and their fury, for it is most cruel.  I will divide them up in Yaakov, and scatter them in Israel.”  Genesis 49:5-7.

One might remember that after their sister Dina, was kidnapped and raped by Shekhem (some say it might have been consensual but clearly she was violated and not allowed to return home), Shimon and Levi killed every single male in the town, and plundered it (for the full story, see Genesis 33:18 – 34:31).

As Jacob now states, because of their violence [חָמָס = Hamas] and anger, neither Shimon nor Levi would receive an undivided portion of the land, as did the other tribes.  But that is not the entire story.

Several generations later, after the exodus from Egypt, we will find Moses coming down from the mountain after meeting with God and finding a golden calf and the people running rampant:

“Moshe stood at the gate of the camp and said, ‘Who is for the Lord? Come to me.’ All the Levites rallied round him. … The Levites did as Moshe had ordered. Some three thousand people fell that day. Moshe said, ‘Dedicate yourselves to the Lord today. You have been willing to act even against your son or brother. May He bestow a blessing on you this day.'” Exodus 32:26-30.

The Levites turned back to the Lord and did as Moses comanded. Although, as Jacob declared, they did not receive an undivided portion of land as did the other tribes, they received cities throughout the land of Israel and received the tithe as their inheritance. So Levi not only remained a recognized tribe, but one that was consecrated to the Lord.

Further on in their travels, when Israel was dwelling at Shitim, “the men began to consort with Moabite women, who invited the people to join the sacrifices to their god; the men ate, and then they worshipped the women’s god.” Numbers 25:1-3. The Lord was furious and loosed a plague. To compound the travesty, an Israelite man, Zimri son of Salu, leader of the ancestral House of Shimon, brought a Moabite woman into the Tent of Meeting. Pinhas, being jealous for God, took a spear and stabbed Zimri and the woman, thus stopping the plague. Twenty-four thousand Israelites died. Many of these appear to be from the tribe of Shimon; the Israelites were numbered again at this point, and Shimon’s descendants now numbered 22,200  (in Numbers 1:12-13 the tribe of Shimon numbered 59,300). When the land of Israel was apportioned to the tribes, no separate apportionment was made for the tribe of Shimon.

Levi and Shimon were both guilty of Hamas – violence, and their anger resulted in the curse on each tribe. But in the Torah ony one was able to move beyond the curse and receive a blessing.

What is the Lord’s ultimate purpose?  To be recognized as the only God and to be the only one to be worshipped:

“Be vigilant in what I am commanding you this day … Take care not to make a treaty with the inhabitants of the land you are going to, for they would become a dangerous trap to you.  Tear down their altars, smash their worship pillars, and cut down their sacred trees, for you must  worship no other god. The Lord, known to demand absolute loyalty is your God who demands it indeed.” Exodus 34:11-15

 

Translations are from The Koren Tanakh (The Magerman Edition, published by Koren Publishers Jerusalem, 2021)