According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

A Jewish Perspective by Elie Wiesel - The Story of Aaron

Aaron, the first high priest and brother to Moses, worships the golden calf, in an illumination from the
late 13th-century manuscript La Somme le Ray. British Library MSADD 28162, Folio 2V.

Aaron, the first high priest and brother to Moses, worships the golden calf, in an illumination from the late-13th-century manuscript La Somme le Ray. Elie Wiesel points out that this incident, which had disastrous consequences for the Israelites fleeing Egypt, cast a shadow over Aaron. In Exodus 32, Aaron instructs the Israelites, who had grown restless during Moses’ long sojourn at Mount Sinai, to gather their jewelry and fashion a golden calf. He then constructs an altar and begins to worship. When Moses returns and sees the people worshiping the calf, he is angered by their idolatrous sin and throws down the stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments. Later, when the Lord punishes “the people who through Aaron made the bull-calf” (Exodus 32:35), Aaron remains unharmed—a mystery Wiesel raises but cannot solve.

Aaron in the Bible
Bible Review's Supporting Roles by Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel   •  10/04/2013

I have a problem with Aaron, number two in the great and glorious epic that recounts the liberation of the Jewish people from slavery in Egypt. He is a man of peace. He succeeds at everything. Everyone admires, even loves him. Whether great or small, they need him, his understanding and his mediation. Whatever he does, he is well regarded.

But is it possible that Aaron is without fault? Like all biblical characters, he must be imperfect. He too has his moments of weakness and his crises. But in those he is forgiven.

His younger brother Moses must overcome obstacles and dangers. More than once, Moses’ life has been threatened and his reputation questioned. But not Aaron, who passes through difficulties unscathed. Moses is often torn between two passions, two obligations: the demands of God and those of his people. But not Aaron. When the Hebrews became impatient and restless in the desert, demanding food and drink, they did not rise up against Aaron, but against Moses. Likewise, when God became angry at the people for their lack of faith, most of the time his anger was directed at Moses alone. Is this because Moses, the great political and military leader, represented civil authority, while his brother Aaron, the high priest, embodied spiritual authority? One would say that providence seemed to smile more on Aaron than on Moses.

While the Hebrews were still in Egypt, enslaved and suffering under Pharaoh’s harsh laws, it was Moses who defended them, going so far as to kill an Egyptian guard who was beating a Jewish slave. In the desert, again it was Moses who had to strike the rock to find a source of water. One gets the impression that as soon as there was danger, Aaron slipped away from the scene.

Nevertheless, Aaron’s balance sheet is not completely clean. At least two disconcerting episodes cast a shadow over his life. If the first arises out of his public persona, the second is strictly personal.

This article was originally published in Bible Review. Bible Review: The Archive (1985-2005) CD contains every issue of Bible Review, a nondenominational magazine of Biblical insights and exquisite art. It includes more than 800 articles, 2,500 photos and all editorial content. 

The first is linked to the golden calf. That Aaron played an important role in this episode is clearly indicated in the text. True, the idea of making the golden calf comes from the people, but it is Aaron who gives it life. It is Aaron who collects the golden jewelry; it is he who builds the altar and lights the flame; it is he who makes the idol. Aaron even goes so far as to invite the idolatrous masses to a feast the next day. To celebrate what? The birth of a new god? Or a new faith? “Chag la adoshem machar,” he cries. “Tomorrow is a feast unto the Lord.” Has he forgotten the Law that the Lord gave to the people of Israel gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai? Has he forgotten his brother, who ascended to the heavens to receive it in the name of this very people?

Naturally, God becomes angry. Against his people? Yes, but also, indirectly, against Moses. God tells him, “Go down and you will see how far (to what point) your people has corrupted its faith and truth” (Exodus 32:7). God does not even mention Aaron. God condemns the entire people of Israel, but silently passes over the fact that it is the high priest himself who has fashioned—with his own hands—this idol. Note well: God seems critical of Moses, who is blameless, but not of his brother, who collaborated—either voluntarily or under duress—in an abomination that had disastrous consequences: Three thousand Israelites died (Exodus 32:28). It was the will of God: The men of the tribe of Levi went from gate to gate, each with the order to kill his brother, his friend, his parent (Exodus 32:27).

But…where is Aaron? Has he joined the killers of his own tribe? He was not among the victims—that is certain, since he continued to live for many more years, fulfilling his priestly functions. As though nothing had happened. As though God had forgiven him, and him alone, for a sin for which three thousand others had died at the hand of their avengers.

Don’t we have the right to ask the text, why this favoritism to Aaron? In the Midrash (a), our sages try hard to answer this question and end up inventing several explanations that exonerate Aaron. For example: Aaron had no choice. If he had refused, he would have been assassinated. Or: It was out of loyalty to Moses that he agreed to make the idol—all alone. Thus, far from the crowd, Aaron deliberately stretched things out to give Moses time to return from his mission. Or another: Aaron chose to commit the sin himself, rather than have the people commit it, thus saving them from greater guilt and condemnation without mercy.

Yes, Aaron is certainly well loved in the Midrash—a little less in the Bible, let’s admit it. When God explains to Moses why he and his brother Aaron may not enter the Promised Land, he uses harsh words, hurtful arguments. But, Aaron can console himself because he is not the only one to be blamed.

The second episode is no less troubling. It concerns the malicious words Aaron and his sister Miriam direct against Moses. They seem to reproach him for his superiority over them—and also for his marriage to a black woman, a non-Jew, a “Cushite” (Numbers 12). God judged it necessary to reprimand them, and to punish Miriam—her skin becomes white with leprosy (Numbers 12:10).

There again, we cannot understand the divine attitude toward this “first family” of the Jewish people: If Miriam was guilty, so was Aaron. But he was not punished. Here again, the Midrash moves heaven and earth to explain this divine inequity.

The lesson of this story: In the Bible, as in life, there are some problems that remain insoluble.

Translated from French by Anne Renner.


a. Midrash is a genre of rabbinic literature that includes nonliteral elaborations of biblical texts.

Wikipedia - In Judaism, the Midrash (Hebrew: מדרש; plural - midrashim) is the body of homiletic stories told by Jewish rabbinic sages to explain passages in the Tanakh (the Tanakh is the Hebrew canon and is also known as the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible. It is an acronym of the first Hebrew letter of each of the Masoretic text's three traditional subdivisions: Torah, "Teaching," also known as the first "Five Books of Moses"; Nevi'im, "Prophets;" and Ketuvim, "Writings." Hence, TaNaKh).

Midrash is a method of interpreting biblical stories that go beyond simply distillation of religious, legal, or moral teachings. It fills in gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at. The purpose of the midrash was to resolve problems in the interpretation of difficult passages of the text of the Hebrew Bible, using Rabbinic principles of hermeneutics and philology to align them with the religious and ethical values of religious teachers.

Elie Wiesel
The author of more than 30 novels, plays and profiles of biblical figures, Elie Wiesel received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. This online publication is adapted from Wiesel’s article “Supporting Roles: Joshua,” which was published in Bible Review in December 1998. At the inception of Wiesel’s Supporting Roles series in Bible Review, BAS editors wrote:

"We are pleased—and honored—to present our readers with the first of a series of insightful essays by Elie Wiesel, the world-renowned author and human rights advocate. Wiesel is best known for his numerous books on the Holocaust and for his profiles of biblical figures and Hasidic masters. In 1986, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His occasional series for BR will focus on characters in the Bible that do not occupy center stage—those who play supporting roles."

Jewish Teachings in the Bible Series
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