Innocence & Experience Part One

Apr 22nd, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer
The Talmud describes the Children of Israel as hesitant to establish Hallel as an official part of our liturgy as long as Micha’s idol remained standing.  The most common explanation is that people did not want to sing the verse, “Their worshippers should be like them,” meaning, just as the idols cannot see, speak, hear, touch or move, so too, their worshippers should be stifled, as long as many Jews were worshipping idols. The Temple of Micah is said to have stood as long as the Mishkan.

I suspect that there is far more to Israel’s hesitation than a single verse, and that their hesitation is related less to Micah’s idol, than to his legendary origins. The Mideast describes how Moshe was haunted by the fact that God allowed the Egyptians to bury Jewish children alive in the buildings. “How can You allow this to go on?” he asked God. “all these children would have grown up to be evil!” God responded. Moshe wasn’t satisfied until God permitted and empowered him to remove one of the buried children, restore him to life and see what would happen. The baby Moshe pulled from the walls was Micah who worshipped idols even as Israel crossed the sea, and eventually erected his infamous temple right in the vicinity of the Mishkan, hiring Moshe’s grandson as the priest.

It’s difficult to know where to begin: 1) The same Moshe who is said to have looked into the future to confirm that no good would ever come from the Egyptian before he killed him, is described as bothered when God says that these babies would have grown up to be evil. 2) Moshe is obviously bothered by the issue of Free Choice, and how God can intervene and allow a child to be killed because he was destined to be evil. Did the child not have Free Choice?   Did God mean that the child would never have offspring who would be good? 3) Was it only the babies buried alive in the walls who would be evil? What about all the babies drowned in the Nile? 4) Did Moshe not rely on God, and believe that he could prove God’s predictions inaccurate? 5) Was Moshe being punished when Micah worshipped idols as they were crossing the sea? 6) Was Moshe’s grandson destined, without free choice, to become the priest in Micah’s temple?

Are we to believe that when a child dies, it is possible that he was destined to be evil?

When did this conversation between God and Moses take place? Was it when Moshe was a young prince, explaining how Micah could be old enough to worship idols as they were crossing the sea? Was it after Moshe returned as an eighty year old man?

What happened after Micah was pulled from the wall and brought back to life? Was he returned to his parents? Did he remember what happened? Did other people know? Did they come clamoring for Moshe to pull their children from the walls? Did Micah grow up as a “special child,” the Harry Potter of his generation? Was there a lesson in all this for Israel? For us?

Is it somewhere in this story that we will find the issue that caused Israel to hesitate to make Hallel more official?

Author Info:
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