Inconsistencies Part Four: The Drunkard’s Walk

Jun 3rd, 2010 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week
“If we were logical, we would resign ourselves to the evidence that our fate is beyond human knowledge, that every conjecture is arbitrary and demonstrably devoid of foundation. But men are rarely logical when their own fate is at stake; on every occasion, they prefer the extreme positions. According to our character, some of us are immediately convinced that all is lost, that one cannot live here, that the end is near and sure; others are convinced that however hard the present life may be, salvation is probable and not far off, and if we have faith and strength, we will see our houses and our dear ones again. The two classes of pessimists and optimists are not so clearly defined, however, not because there are many agnostics, but because the majority, without memory or coherence, drift between the two extremes according to the moment and the mood of the person they happen to meet.” (Primo Levi – If This Is a Man)

What Levi described about his bunk mates in Auschwitz is not unfamiliar to us. We see the drift, the Drunkard’s Walk, everywhere in life in the random motion of feelings incessantly bumping, and being bumped by their sister feelings.

If we would mark the inconsistent path of the Children of Israel from the time they left Egypt, and then crossed the Split Sea, complained about water and food, received Manna and Miriam’s Well, complained again, battled Amalek, experienced Revelation, built the Golden Calf and then the Mishkan (Tabernacle), complaining again, repenting, t and on and on, we would see a drunken man’s path through life. They weaved back and forth, up and down, but always moved ahead until…

The spies forgot all the inconsistencies and got stuck believing they were insects. (Fleas On My Mind) The nation went back and forth as a pendulum until they froze in their sense of inadequacy.

What happened? Why were they frightened of their fluctuations only now, as they were about to enter the Land of Israel?

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