The Israelites portrayed in Numbers are not irredeemable, a fact that gives us hope, though they are — again like us — often frightened and perhaps even traumatized: they by slavery, we by Holocaust. Desire often gets the better of them as it does of us. Farce sometimes is succeeded by tragedy. And yet along the way there are occasions of true nobility, signs of genuine holiness, and at the end there are palpable signs of redemption. The children of the people Israel are getting somewhere. Israel will heed “the commandments and regulations that the Lord enjoined upon [them] through Moses” (Numbers 36:13), at least some of the time. Normalcy and covenant will coexist and even strengthen one another, as the Torah had imagined. This is perhaps the best that politics can offer. The beginning, as always, is to raise our heads and be counted.
Arnold M. Eisen