When learning Torah, there are many characters of every flavor to meet. Some of these characters awed me as I learned their strengths and uniqueness. Some amused me with their idiosyncrasies. Yet, when my Torah teachers introduced me to Dasan and Aviram, I was not inspired, amused or neutral. I was pretty mad, in fact, bothered to no end. You see, I learned that during the epoch of the Exodus from Egypt, four out of five Jews got left behind due to their lack of any spiritual oomph. However, two guys named Dasan and Aviram came out with the righteous, having been deemed worthy of redemption. Those two then took exodus as a license to wreak havoc on the Jewish masses. Dasan and Aviram began instigating, coaxing others to kvetch and moan about everything. They were there for every fight. They were there to challenge Moshe at every turn. Like that incident where they place out Manna in the desert on a Friday night, just to disprove Moshe’s assurance that the double portion on Friday meant no Manna would rain down on a Shabbos. I couldn’t help but wonder why G-d didn’t leave these two rascals in Egypt instead of taking two mischief makers on a desert journey. Their presence in the desert scenarios rankled at me. If I could be a time traveler, I would have picked that era to revisit just to have a chance at trying to wipe out those two.
Another Torah teacher introduced me to Menashe. Now there was a rascal, if ever there was one worthy of contempt, so wicked he even hacked his own grandfather to death, not wanting to hear any words of reproach about his lifestyle. Why allow such scurrilous a creature the opportunity to repent? Yet, I was taught that G-d allowed this vile creature to find a way to repent even though Menashe had done every abominable act.
I hated those three. I don’t know why I found them the Rascavelians most worthy of my hatred. There are plenty of others listed in the Torah; Esau, Bilaam. Yet those three had captured my attention because they were not all bad. There was a core goodness in these three that, very rarely, but on occasion, tilted them from bad to good. Throwing out the baby with the bath water, I would kill ‘em off and be done with them…if it were up to me. Yet, G-d, in the history of the world, patiently put up with their evil for the sake of their one moment of goodness.
In my life, there were days that were dark, stormy angry days, where my self-hatred bubbled and roiled like a witch’s brew. That usually happened when I caught myself messing up big time and felt as if G-d’s world was bright and airy and I was the stain upon it. Harsh upon myself, I could not abide myself in my errors. It was then that I learned to take out my rascal measuring stick. Yup, I had messed up and led myself down some kvetchy paths, but if G-d forbore Dasan and Aviram, I realized I would be given time to reflect and become better. And, if G-d had accepted the repentance of Menashe, mine should surely be a shoo-in.
I’ve learned to love those three rascals for the feeling of belief it gives me in my ability, despite my missteps, to always find a way back to G-d.