If Chukat is about faith in Hashem’s covenant to provide a home and good health to those who choose to follow him why has this week’s Torah portion done nothing but distract me during my meditation since early childhood? Why does it feed my naturally ingrown neurosis and “Jewish” flavored guilt? If I knew the answer to that then I would be a fully realized Jew and unfortunately for me I am light years away from being a fully realized anything.
For me personally, there is just way too much going on in Chukat that I can link directly to my life. First, Miriam dies in Zin meaning she never sets foot in the promised land. When I was young I used to have this recurring dream that I was at my Aunt and Uncle’s house, their last name is Zinn, in these dreams I am in their basement typing a code into a door lock which opens into a lavish tower adorned with a golden spiraling staircase, plush red velvet walls, with men in tuxedoes and women in ball gowns blissfully strolling about seemingly without any real purpose. Once I step onto the golden staircase I am unable to walk so I crawl, cling, and climb my way half way up to the tower’s steps when I come across a dead end hallway with a television set tuned to static. The static scrambles my brain and that’s as far as I make it.
Never one for dream analysis and twenty odd years later I can still remember having that never changing dream over and over again as a kid. Maybe the promised land is at the top of the tower. Maybe the static is my inability to fully commit to something I have never seen. Maybe my lameness is my struggle with doubt, and my Aunt and Uncle’s house I don’t know I always thought their house was creepy.
Second is yet another episode of the ancient Hebrews speaking out against Hashem. His response this time is creative to say the least. The ancient Hebrews are plagued by an onslaught of venomous snakes. Hashem tells Moses to construct what is basically a snake totem for those bitten to gaze upon for healing. Lets forget about my distaste for snakes, and focus on why this makes me think about my mother…with a fair share of guilt. For the most part I was a good kid, but like all neighborhood kids I took part in my fair share of wickedness. Every time I indulged my evil inclination without fail I would get sick immediately afterwards. Didn’t matter if my ailment was poison ivy or the flu every time I found myself in trouble I became afflicted with something and without missing a step my mother was the first to point out to me that I was sick because I did something wrong. If that’s not guilt perfected then what is?
Now for my angry rock story. Playing on a construction sight with some of the neighborhood kids and meaning no harm out of nowhere a heavy thud and dust cloud engulfs the back of my twelve year old neck. A late arrival to the festivities thought he’d inject himself into all the fun by throwing a clump of dirt at me. Like Moses I get a little more than just angry, I lashed out but instead of using a clump of dirt I literally cast the first stone. Boy oh boy did I get in a heap of trouble for showing up to a dirt fight with a rock. Long story short it is the only time in my life I hit a target dead on with a projectile. Luckily he wasn’t seriously hurt and I was immediately overcome with remorse the second the rock left my young hand.
This time each year I am reminded of a vivid recurring nonsensical dream from my childhood and even though my neighbor was not seriously hurt and he forgave me I still feel guilty for striking out with a rock over twenty-one years ago; and if I think I’m starting to get sick forget about it I worry and over analyze every thought and action of the past few days. On a positive note I am curious to see what future moments of my life I will permanently link to the Red Heffer, Aaron’s passing, and the military victories contained in Chukat.
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