Every person in the Hebrew Bible is fundamentally screwed up. Abraham had sex with his wife’s slave, then banished her and his son Ishmael…then, he tried to sacrifice his other son Issac. Jacob and his mother Rebecca lie to Issac and steal Esau’s birthright. Moses was a stuttering menial laborer who killed a man in Egypt. Noah was a drunk…and so was Lot. Lot also had incestuous sex with his daughters, which makes Noah look like an angel.
I’m shocked when I hear people talk about the “trash on TV”. Jerry Springer and Maury aren’t showing us anything that is any more perverse than our holy text. Except for maybe this video (Not Safe For Work)…
The Biblical narrative, read literally and without much examination, is not a very good moral guide. No one can take a person from our spiritual history and say, “wow, if only my children could be more like that guy!” Unless of course you want your kid to be the kind of person who burns his enemies bodies like Joshua or uses sex to trick someone into marrying her like Tamar or Ruth.
Everything we read in the Torah is subjective: the Torah can be used to support or oppose slavery, to promote interfaith alliance or religious warfare, to subject women and children to torture or to uplift those who are downtrodden.
But the one thing the Torah teaches that no one can deny: anyone can be holy.
While I can criticize the characters of the Hebrew Bible for their terrible behavior, I have to remember that God chose these people. God not only chose them, but God made them! God also made the guests of Jerry and Maury. Their problems are no worse than the problems we read about in the weekly Torah portion.
So if I can see the attempted felon Abraham, the liar Issac and the slave holding Jacob as holy, then I have to see Pancake, the Maury Povich guest, as holy too.