​The story of the Exodus, the escape of the Hebrews from enslavement in Egypt, their forty years wandering in the desert and their eventual entry into the ‘Promised Land’ is one of the great myths of humanity. Although there is no historical record of it, it has been a potent tale for many generations. It underpins the founding of the state of Israel after the Holocaust and it has inspired many mystical interpretations in Christian faith. Lent is a time when it is retold and re-interpreted in the light of present experience.
On many occasions in their desert trek the Hebrews rebelled against their leader Moses. They complained of the conditions they were enduring. Why didn’t you leave us alone in slavery when we were able to eat and drink and watch Netflix when we wanted? It wasn’t perfect but it was better than this freedom. Moses replied, well don’t blame me. Blame the Lord your God. It was his idea and you agreed to it.
You might think the Lord your God would send down a thunderbolt on his people for their lack of faith and insubordination. Instead, He told Moses that he would rain down bread from heaven (their daily bread). There will be sufficient for everyone and on the Shabat there will be a double portion for everyone. The purpose of this generosity, He adds, is (not to keep them quiet) but to test them and see if they can follow Him better in future. God is giving them what they need – and a bonus – not tin order to treat them like spoiled children (which is how they were acting) but to teach them. We are taught best when we are surprised by love when we expect and feel we deserve punishment.
This is not how our ego thinks. And therefore, it is not how our image of God acts because every image or idea of God we have is, in some degree, a false god. We have to be surprised - and dis-illusioned - to see the truth.
In the story (Exodus 16) at this point God throws in a daily portion of meat in the form of quails. God says that each person must collect what they need according to the size of their family. This meant that those who gathered less and those who gathered more were equally satisfied. Anyone who knows the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in the gospels will see a resonance with this story. It highlights the Eucharistic meal as a symbol of unity and justice for all
The principle of equality and fairness is the secret of contentment. Without contentment we lose proportion and justice and are consumed by the illusions of greed.
Laurence Freeman
Lenten Reflections 2022