“The Lesson of the Staff of Life, or the Staff of Death”
Parashah HUKKAT (Numbers 19:1-22:1) Week 39
ADONAI said to Moshe and Aharon, “This is the regulation from the Torah which ADONAI has commanded. Tell the people of Isra’el to bring you a young red female cow without fault of defect and which has never borne a yoke. You are to give it to El’azar the cohen; it is to be brought outside the camp and slaughtered in front of him. El’azar the cohen is to take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle this blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. The heifer is to be burned to ashes before his eyes – its skin, meat, blood and dung is to be burned to ashes. The cohen is to take cedar-wood, hyssop and scarlet yarn and throw them onto the heifer as it is burning up. Then the cohen is to wash his clothes and himself in water and after which he may re-enter the camp; but the cohen will remain unclean until evening.” (Numbers 19: 1-7 CJB)
This was a new regulation of Torah which Adonai commanded, on the heels of the deaths of the rebellious leaders against Moses and Aaron. As we traveled with the Nation of Israel from Mount Sinai out into the desert wilderness (B’midbar) there has been tremendous death in a short period of time. The Sin of the Spies brought fear and negative gossip (Lashon Hara) which dishonored the name of Adonai; resulting in judgement.
We have made the journey with the Nation of Israel, as if on a huge Ferris Wheel, turning slowly from fear, to questioning, to dishonor by complaining, to judgement by Adonai, to repentance and back around again. This is the perpetual, full circle of falling away from the faith. Perpetual sin will take us on a circular journey leading to nowhere; instead of on the glorious upward spiral of the Halakah or walk with Adonai!
We question why the Nation of Israel did not see their cyclical circle of sin and judgement; yet stumbled again and again over themselves, suffering discipline from Adonai. The discipline of Adonai has a refining way of adjusting our paradigm, moment by moment. In a flash, as the earth cracks open and rabble-rousers begin to fall into the abyss, or a plague from Adonai descends upon a rebellious Nation, or serpents appear all around with teeth covered in deadly venom to bite the ankles of spiritual anarchists, the displeasures of the moment fade into obscurity. The voices of rebellion finally became screams for survival!
It seems so much clearer on this side of the Torah, does it not? Yet, when we honestly take stock of our culture, is it not a mirror image of the same sins of discontent, comparison, and greed which infiltrate from the top to the bottom echelon of society, and back again?
We saw in last week’s Parashah how the infiltration of discontent came from ten tribal leaders who poisoned the Nation’s hope in the Promised Land. In Parashah Hukkat, the Nation is still reeling with emotion from the judgement of the rebellion of Korach, on the heels of Miriam’s death at Kadesh. The Nation clamored for water with the same level of discontent demonstrated many times before. There was no community mourning for Miriam’s death; only fearful shrieks to Moses and Aaron when the well of Miriam ran dry!
The Ferris Wheel of the spiritual condition of their hearts continued to rotate, from discontent, to rebellion, to dishonor of Adonai; bringing judgement! How many journeys, how many sacrifices by Aaron, how many new ways by Adonai to help the people draw near will it take before there are eyes to see and ears to hear His lessons? Are we any different, dear seeker, from the historical recounting of the fledgling Nation of Israel, in our modern society today?
“Take the staff, assemble the community, you and Aharon your brother; and before their eyes tell the rock to produce its water. You will bring them water out of the rock and thus enable the community and their livestock to drink.” (Numbers 20:8 CJB)
“But after Moshe and Aharon had assembled the community in front of the rock, he said to them, “Listen here, you Rebels! Are we supposed to bring you water from this rock?” Then Moshe raised his hand and hit the rock twice with his staff. (Numbers 20:10-11 CJB)
This is the Lesson of the Staff of Life, or the Staff of Death. In our walk as a nation of priests, we too have been handed a staff by Adonai. Will we point it toward the earth and strike out in angry judgement? Or, will we lead with the Staff of Life, which brings others into His glorious light? Adonai is patient for us to turn from our sin, back to Him. (SHUV)
This is the Lesson of the Staff of Life, or the Staff of Death. In contrast, Adonai commanded a bronze serpent to be affixed to Moses’ staff and then lifted high, in view of all who were mortally bitten by vipers, as judgement for a continued lack of faith. When the bronze serpent was lifted high, there was healing. The same staff was used in two different ways; lifted in obedience by Moses from the plagues of Egypt, to the parting of the Red Sea, through the wilderness wanderings, or pointed in personal judgement over others as he struck the rocks twice instead of repeating the words of Adonai, until water gushed forth for the Nation.
This is the Lesson of the Staff of Life, or the Staff of Death. The final ONE lifted high to bring life instead of death, is Jesus the Messiah. Affixed to the Father’s stake, His obedience on the cross brought eternal LIFE over DEATH.
He became sin and death for us. His blood is our cleansing flow. This was the final wooden staff of death which brought eternal life, making a way into the Father’s presence with its final reach, piercing the heavens!
On this blessed Sabbath, as we meditate on all this…may our priestly staff bud with NEW life, as we look heavenward, from whence our help comes from!
ADONAI! The same yesterday, today, and forever gives us promise and hope and a future as children of the light!
Rejoice and Shabbat Shalom!