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Political and spiritual mutinies.

The episode of the spies in Numbers 14 was a challenge to the political and spiritual leadership of Moses. The majority report not only threatened Moses personally but also represented a serious schism within the body politic of the people of Israel. One is reminded of the lesson President Abraham Lincoln taught when he said, "A house divided against itself cannot stand." As the Confederacy was defeated in war, so those who raised an insurrection were undone in a calamity.

The political mutiny against Moses in Numbers 14 is directly followed by a spiritual mutiny in Numbers 15. This comes with the willful violation of Shabbat by a certain gatherer of wood, a violation of the only ceremonial mitzvah in the Decalogue and a mainstay of Israelite/Jewish identity. This mutiny against God brought about the execution of the offender.

The parallels between Numbers 14 and 15 are obvious. The people of Israel cohere as a nation by remaining at one in its body politic under Moses and its commitment to religious forms under God.

Israel C. Stein recently retired after 33 years as the rabbi of Congregation Rodeph Sholom in Bridgeport CT.
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Author:Stein, Israel C.
Publication:Jewish Bible Quarterly
Article Type:Brief article
Geographic Code:7ISRA
Date:Apr 1, 2008
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