Friday, October 17, 2008

Moses before Pharoah

In the English number 41, which sticks together an assortment of midrashim from different sources, I find myself mulling over the appropriateness of the middle part of this piece for the season. Although we are enjoying chol haMoed Sukkot, we are not far in time from Rosh Hashanah. We remain within the season of our judgment, and its association with the recognition of God as our only and ultimate Ruler.

I find it striking that the midrash centers around the crowning of Pharaoh not simply as king, but as the English has it "cosmocrater," -the king of all kings- thus usurping God's role. Pharaoh even goes so far as to google God and can't get a hit, prompting him to say "You see, I looked for your God [among a list of pagan deities] and did not find it"

The rabbis then focus on how foolish Pharaoh is in asking about God' achievements, saying things like, "Is He young or old...How many provinces has He conquered?" as if God was nothing more than another petty king... and apparently Pharaoh hasn't the imagination to think of God as anything more than another human - which is apparently why he thinks so hughly of himself. If there isn't anything in the universe greater than oneself, then why not assume the role of the greatest of all beings. Who is there to hold your arrogance in check, and help you feel a bit more humble about your place in the great scheme of things?

This whole sequence reminds me of nothing so much as the current state of affairs in the extreme end of Christian religion in the USA these days. For example the whole brou-ha-ha of (some) evangelicals busy trying to get creationism taught in public schools; how is it that they are unable to conceive of a God that has a greater imagination for process than they do?
How utterly like the Pharaoh that we see here in trying to make God into a man - and a kind of stupid one at that.

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