Post-Modern D’var Torah: Bamidbar(Numbers) 11

Moses is frustrated, not by the pleas of the Jewish people, but by his sharing in their condition. Their wandering through the desert is as much a spiritual attainment as it is a nomadic lifestyle. They are transported by clouds, protected from heat and villains, they consume no more and no less than they need. They are engaged in a spiritual project encased in exile. They are beyond harming others, they experience no harm themselves, they live as a community of monks. This is an impossible condition for human society, the abstention from excess is evidently driving the Jewish people insane, and though the Mana is perfect they can neither consume it in excess and wealth nor furiously waste it. Rav Bataille explicates in the Accursed Share(1) that human culture must produce, consume and ‘spend’ the excess. The Problem of the Jews in the desert then- First, they are incapable of hoarding, trading or producing food and goods, thus the excess consumption which human beings require as individuals is gone, this is the virginal life. Second, they produce nothing and so can neither sacrifice nor waste. There is no room in the desert for massive parties, feasts or orgiastic celebrations, these are the cornerstones of human culture collectively, with no sacrifice or wasteful celebration the social order suffers. Though all of their dietary needs are met, the Jews psycho-social state is suffering under the weight of ascetic purity.


Who are the new prophets? Myriad voices and interpretations of the multifaceted performance of the Divine Will.  

Why are they apart from the others? They expound the esoteric doctrine.

Why does violence follow those preaching outside? They preach aloud the esoteric doctrine, in plain speech so that they are overheard.

Further, there is no reason to understand anger as anger, the nature of the divine is total emptiness, within that emptiness reside the totality of language. To say the Lord is angry is to comment on a performative aspect for the benefit of the community, it is no more the nature of the Lord than the cover of a book represents the totality of its contents. to take the word of the Lord at its word is to radically limit the ineffable nature of the Lord by reducing the magnificent Prime Mover to a conceivable being.

What is God’s anger? Upaya: a performance, how is it performance? the Jews have done nothing wrong and are not being punished, there is no lesson as such to be learned, rather the tale depicts the fundamental trajectory of human society, we must want, and to live in a society of want is to appease want through sacrifice. this is another performance.  

What is the lesson? That human society requires a consumption that the ascetic-perfect life denies, and while it is not apart from the Godly essence, the Lord presented the Jews first with a perfect state, and then with our excess and spectacle driven society. Ergo the path of holiness, apart from the society of excess, (or the Spectacle of Rav Debord) is one in which –born on a bed of clouds- wanders the desert with neither desire nor satisfaction, but a perfect stillness of self.

“42: The spectacle corresponds to the historical moment at which the commodity completes its colonization of social life.”(2)

The social order of the Jews is upset by the order of Mana, they cannot consume excess and as such they complain, gods anger is ultimately a gift, the quail and the slaughter of the meat eaters is a single event, which brings the stalled and ennui-driven lives of the Jews back into the world of consumption and excess, the world of living beings. To consume no more than one needs and to be perpetually satisfied is to lead a virginal life, a life of abstention, it is a monastic-ascetic project and it is one which the Jews could not endure. The gift of quail is the orgy maintaining humanity on the social level (need for consumptive excess) the mass death is the sacrifice continuing society (accursed share), how could the accursed share be produced if there is no product or commodity? There are two trends that this chapter observes, the first is the human need for indulgence, and the concurrent impossibility of man in society to follow the path of the ascetic, and the second is the revelation of the multifaceted nature of the Divine Will. As it manifests in a rainbow of meaning, the various preachers and prophets are forced to present diffuse and conflicting accounts, or even to transgress and reveal the nature of the esoteric proscriptions.


1 Bataille, Georges. The Accursed Share. Vol. 1-2. New York: Zone, 1991

2Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone, 1995. (29)