Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Har Hamoreh

A prelimninary: anyone interested in taking a Tanach tiyul should contact Ezra Rosenfeld at ezrarosenfeld@bezeqint.net. He runs great tiyulim all the time, and I've really enjoyed the four that I've gone on so far.

A few months ago, I was on one of my Tanach Tours in the Galil (Galilee.) We were learning the story of Gidon (Gideon) the Shofet. A Shofet in modern Hebrew is a Judge, but in Tanachic Hebrew it meant more an inspired leader. Every few generations, the Jews would fall into idolatry and their commitment to God would lapse.
"And I have also said, 'I will not drive them out before you; they will
become traps for you, and their gods will become snares to you." Judges

God would then remove his protection from the Jews, and they would fall under the oppressive domination of one of the surrounding peoples. The Jewish people, now afflicted, would repent and cry out to God for mercy. God would then send a Shofet to inspire the people and rally them against the enemy, leading to the enemy's defeat. The Jews, now free, would then lapse again into sin. Repeat ad infinitum. The period of the Shoftim lasted for 400 years, from the end of the Exodus from Egypt as Joshua crossed over the Jordan into Eretz Israel in the year 2488 (aka 1272 BCE) until the rise of King Shaul (Saul) in the year (879 BCE.)

For his own epic struggle against the invaders from Midian (in present day Saudi Arabia,) Gidon gathered his forces at Ein Harod (the spring of Harod.) Although thirty two thousand assembled for battle, Gideon began to whittle down his forces. First, he instructed those frightened of battle to go home, and twenty two thousand left. Next, he ordered them to drink from the spring. Those who knelt to drink were sent home, and those who lapped up water were kept. Our sages tell us that those who got on their knees indicated through their action that they were used to worshipping idols. By this time, he had only 300, but needless to say, with divine assistance, they smashed the Midianite forces gathered to the north on Mount Moreh. Or, more accurately, they surrounded them and blew shofars and smashed jugs, which caused such confusion in the Midianite ranks that they began slaughtering one another. Halleluyah.

Anyway, one of the stops on the Tanach tour was to see Har Hamoreah, where the Midianites had gathered. Today it's home to a national forest.

Looking south towards Emek Yizrael (The Jezreel Valley.)

Yours truly.
The city of Afula through the trees.
The big hill there is Har Tavor (Mount Tabor,) where, a generation later, Devorah (Deborah) the prophetess gathered her forces for the final battle against the Canaanites.
The green fields of the Yizrael.

After defeating the Midianites, Gidon was offered national leadership, but instead he returned to his home village of Ofra, which is nearer the coast and further south. There he built a massive monument in honor of God for having saved the Jews yet again. But, of course, the people began to slip, and pretty soon the monument itself became a "snare" to the people, and they worshipped it as if it were an idol. It can be surprizing how much the Tanach mirrors modern life in many ways. The more tings change, the more they stay the same I suppose.

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