Sometimes reading the Torah is like reading a book written by a blood thirsty thirteen year old with attention deficit disorder. This week’s portion jumps, not so elegantly, from women taking vows, to killing the Midianites and stealing their stuff, then all of a sudden we’re diving up a bunch of land. The end, next chapter please.
And you wonder why more people don’t take the Torah seriously? It’s like cut-and-paste poetry. Once the story gets really good, G-d interrupts everything with a census or some obscure set of rules that makes no sense. Or it starts off really boring, and you give up half way, only to find out the really good stuff is toward the end.
The Torah doesn’t have a good beginning, middle and end. And it’s really not meant to, either. I think there’s three basic reasons for that.
First, the Torah is a reflection of life. And life doesn’t have a real beginning, middle and end. Sure, individual lives start and finish, but the legacy of humanity lasts forever (or at least until SkyNet and the Terminators finish us off). At any rate, Torah reflects life, and life is filled with low points, high points, boring, pointless interruptions, scandals, intrigue, and everything else…and sometimes the order of those things doesn’t make any sense.
Second, the Torah is a reflection of Creation. There’s a midrash that says that G-d looked into the Torah before creating the world. I like that. The Torah is flawed at times, and frankly, so is the world. Now, I’m not calling HaShem a crummy writer or a bad creator, but the world isn’t perfect, and if you read the Torah enough, you’ll find out that the Torah isn’t perfect all the time either.
Finally, the Torah is the reflection of the human soul…sometimes for better, and sometimes for worse. This week, we’re dealing with the souls of women and warriors, liars and hinderers, revenge-seekers and oppressors. Next week, the soul may change, and go in a new direction. But the Torah does us a huge favor and lets us see all sides of the soul. Hopefully, the soul doesn’t end either.
So what’s the bottom line? Don’t let the strange ups-and-downs of the Torah, the weird jumping back and forth from women-and-their-dads-to-blood-and-guts keep you from learning. Life, Creation, and the human spirit has its ups-and-downs, and its weird moments, too.