Is anything impossible for God? People tend to take the saying, “nothing is impossible for God” very lightly, to the point of it being a cliché. In this case, let’s examine two possibilities for the same issue. Bamidbar (Numbers) 11 begins with a complaint, “And it happened that the people began to complain about their bad luck in the ears of the Eternal.” I wondered: “How were the people unlucky? What did they call bad luck?” This whole episode began with an illusion since they complained about the lack of something that they did have. It seems to have started in their homes or their communities, and was not in public, because up to verse 2, Moses realized what the people had done when they asked him to pray to the LORD to quench the fire. In verse 1 it says: “And when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled”. It was the Eternal who heard this complaint because His ears are everywhere, and He always hears, and the verse indicates that His fire consumed the unworthy.
When we read these verses too quickly, we can miss certain aspects of human behavior. When we receive God’s blessings of His protection, His feeding, care, and the provision of our other basic needs, the desire for more tends to consume us, and that turns into a bottomless pit as our prophet Jeremiah 17: 9 said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is desperately wicked–who can know it?”. Like any other humans throughout our history, the people felt ungrateful for what they took for granted, or for what they thought they were entitled to as “their right” as if they were so important. How many people have I seen enter a place with an attitude of arrogance as if those around them should “bow” to them and should be grateful for their presence! Pride is born out of selfishness, and this bears the fruit of ingratitude.
This lack of gratitude causes us to raise our expectations about what we received from God (who knows best for us) thinking that we deserve something we haven’t worked for. Yaakov (James) described this in the Messianic Writings, in James 4:1-3 “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desire for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask incorrectly, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”
And this was the next level; we were a people (Am) who went to the right (Israel) and then the rabble rousers (אסַפְסֻף, asafsuf) appeared, which means they were a rude or vulgar people. The sages of Israel called them עֵרֶב רַב Erev Rav, the mixed multitude who were “possessed” by a strong craving. We are clear that in Judaism there is no possession of spirits as is believed in the West, but what the Scriptures want to tell us is that their desire seized their free will, and they no longer had a choice, because they allowed their desire take control of them. To exemplify this, it is like a child who throws a tantrum over a toy; at first, he wants the toy and cannot live without it, but soon the toy becomes an obsession and a purpose in life; the desire takes hold of him, causing him to throw himself down to the ground in a store “possessed” by his desire, and at this point neither reason nor punishment nor the voice of his father resounding upon him works, because his desire controls his senses; (he doesn’t listen, he doesn’t see, he doesn’t feel, he doesn’t perceive smells or tastes) and he focuses all his energy as if his purpose in life is meaningless without the toy that he wants so much. In this case, a desire entered this crowd, which when I first read it, I thought it was gluttony, but then I realized that it was something else.
“Vayomru mi ya’achilenu basar” וַיֹּאמְרוּ, מִי יַאֲכִלֵנוּ בָּשָׂר. Who will give us meat to eat? If their desire had truly been to eat, which is a basic human need, it made me wonder: Didn’t the Eternal give them cattle when they left Egypt? Didn’t they have animals to eat that had reproduced during their 40 years in the desert? Weren’t they entitled to a portion of the meat offered as Korbanot? Did they receive only manna in the desert? Wouldn’t the correct statement have been “we want to eat meat” but the question itself implies “who will give us”?
“Who will give us” implies that what we want is to be served by another for free, “deserving” without working for it, and is an expression of selfishness and lust. God had established a system of merits through the fulfillment of the Commandments, and the problem with this crowd is that they desired everything by “grace.” Sound familiar? This whim reveals that first, they wanted meat, then fish, and then they ended up with quail, so the problem was not the meat itself; it was their distorted vision about acknowledging who they were and who God is. That is why the Eternal called them unworthy. Unworthy is someone who does not deserve favor from the Eternal; it is not knowing our position before Him. According to them, they ate for nothing in Egypt (Numbers11: 5), was that true? Of course not. Then they said in.11: 6 “There is nothing at all beside this manna?” Also, false. Because this desire became social and public, Moses watched an ongoing tantrum as we read in 11:10 that contaminated the whole community.
The other problem that we see is Moses, as a leader who also complained to God that his leadership of these people was imposed upon him. We can see how Lashon Harah affected the entire community, even the leaders. It says in chap. 11:13 “Where shall I find meat to give to all this people? for they trouble me with their weeping, saying: Give us meat, that we may eat?” To the question asked by the people, “Where”? It’s alluding to the leaders. But something that saved Moses was his humility when he recognized that he could not stand alone, that he required help. To write his weaknesses in a book for future generations must have taken quite a bit of courage. When he told God “I cannot bear this responsibility alone, I don´t want this position”, we see that he didn’t try to appear as a “super Moses”. Thanks to his humility, he was an example to the others for in verse 17, God said: ” And I will come down and speak with you there; and I will take some of the spirit, which is upon you, and will put it upon them“. Then Moses doubted the Word of the Eternal again according to verses 21 to 23, to which the Eternal responds: “Is the LORD’S arm too short? Is His power limited?”
Later we see that God sent quail to ease their strong desire, exhibited by the fact that they gathered so many of them, and while they were still eating, the Eternal’s anger was kindled, and many fell sick. We learn that when we seek our passions irrationally, we are not seeking the best that the Eternal has for us which bring life, but we end up with something that seems good but ends badly, as Mishlei 14:12 says “There is a way which seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death”.
At the end we witness two results, first that of the proud “Kivrot-Hataavah” (Tomb of desires) and second, that of humility: “the connection with God through the manifestation of prophecy” (in Numbers 11: 25-30, the story of Eldad and Medad and the 70 men who prophesied).
In Zechariah 4: 6, it says: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit, says the LORD of hosts.” If we look at the history of this parashah, we see that it was not by force (i.e. human impulse), it was not by any power (i.e., human leadership) but it was by His wind, His Ruach (11:31 Veruach nasa me’et Adonai וְרוּחַ נָסַע מֵאֵת יְהוָה) that it manifested and gave each one what they deserved. Although the context in Zechariah can be interpreted differently, the comparison was clear to me.
To reflect, do we live each day with gratitude or complaints? Do we have whims or needs? Are we sure and trust that God gives us the best for our good? Are we aware that God can do everything and that there is nothing impossible for Him? How do we ask for His goodness, with pride or with humility? Yeshua said “There is nothing impossible for God” three times (in Mark 10:27, Matthew 19:26, Luke 1:37). The Eternal helps us to live in peace, as we thank Him daily for the portion that He provides us for our good.