For the week of July 5, 2003 / 5 Tammuz 5763
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 16:1 - 18:32
Haftarah: 1 Samuel 11:14 - 12:22

A Simple Solution

The LORD said to Moses, "Put back Aaron's staff in front of the Testimony, to be kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, so that they will not die." Moses did just as the LORD commanded him. The Israelites said to Moses, "We will die! We are lost, we are all lost! Anyone who even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD will die. Are we all going to die?" (Bemidbar / Numbers 17:10-13).

Many of the concepts in the Torah are not very complicated. Adam and Eve were given simple instructions: eat of any of the trees, but one. Abraham was told that he would have a son in his old age. Moses was given a simple message to deliver to Pharaoh: Let my people go. Most of the commandments God gave Moses for the people of Israel were also quite straightforward.

This is not to say that what God tells people to do is always easy, but most often it is not complicated. Understanding the Torah is not a matter of deciphering mysterious messages or something that requires years and years of study. While there are aspects that are very difficult to understand and there are issues that do require careful thought, much of it is quite simple.

Sadly we often suffer in life because we are not willing to accept God's simple solutions. Sometimes all we need to do is just accept what God is saying and everything will be fine.

In this week's portion disaster came upon certain people who were grumbling against God. A group of over 250 leaders opposed Moses over God's appointment of the descendants of his brother Aaron as priests. God decided to settle this particular issue once and for all through a miraculous object lesson. A staff was to be taken from a leader of each of the twelve tribes and placed before the Lord. The man whose staff sprouted would be the one specially chosen by God.

I am not going to get into the intricacies of this miracle, since that will distract us from our main point. For now let's accept that this was God's way of dealing with the situation. According to the verse I quoted, after Aaron's staff sprouted, it was to serve as a sign for the people, so that they would no longer grumble, thus preserving their lives.

Prior to this all working out, over 14,000 people died from the plague that arose due to the rebellion. If the people would accept God's word on this by accepting the meaning of the sprouted staff, they would have nothing to fear. Yet according to the passage, even after God provided a solution to the situation, the people were still terrified.

Why are we so slow to accept God's simple solutions? Maybe we reject the effectiveness of God's solutions, because we are overwhelmed by our circumstances, or maybe we don't trust that God will be true to his word.

Whatever our reasons are, God right now offers us solutions to life's problems. Some of our problems may be very complicated and require complicated solutions. We need to take care not to belittle the difficulties people find themselves in by being too simplistic. That said, I am convinced that many of our problems would be solved, if we just accept God's simple solutions.

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