Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hukkat: The Tale of Og, the Giant

Hukkat: The Tale of Og the Giant 

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark 

Welcome to my Cave, Stranger! What frightens you? Oh, I see: you have never seen my like before. 'Tis true: I am the last, the very last, of the Rephaim, the Great Giants of Old. I am not one of your Israelites, who worship an Invisible God. Your Jewish tradition states that I am an Amorite, a proud, warlike, nomadic people. But that is not the entire truth. I am far older than the Amorites. Sit down by my fire—is it not a lovely, gigantic fire, worthy of its kindler?--and listen to my tale. 
Know, Mortal, that there is a—dare I say it?--mythological layer to your Torah. Oh, the rabbis might have tried to slough it off, or cover it up with their Talmudic casuistry—but it is there, sure enough. Here is Gen. 6:4: "The Fallen Angels [Nephilim] appeared on earth—when the Divine Beings cohabited with the daughters of men, who bore them offspring. They were the heroes of old, the men of renown." 
This was my origin: son of the mighty angel Shemchazi, who took to wife the youngest daughter of Adam and Eve, sister of Seth; her name was Ts'eerah. She was the human female who gave me life.  
As a babe, I drank the milk of two-dozen female oxen. I was a strapping youth, I tell you! You ask how tall I am? Eh? The Talmudic rabbis (again, their God bless 'em) had us Rephaim-Giants at 23,000 ells, or 100,000 feet—can you imagine? But I am about twenty-five feet tall, no error. Tall enough, I would say.  
The humans of those days—just after Adam and Eve, mind you—were a stubborn, sinful, and rebellious breed. I and my brother giant Goliath would be out hunting giant cave-bear, and we would see them—well, never mind. Um, sinning; let's leave it at that. It was only inevitable that God would send a Flood. I can't say what Goliath did to survive, but I sought out Brother Noah, and he let me ride atop the Ark—that was a merry voyage, I'll tell you!  
All through the pouring rain, and he would be passing me gobbets of meat and bread through the skylight—even stuck in the dark, wet, smelly menagerie of the Ark, Missus Noah was a wonderful cook. Still, by the third day of the third week, I became green-faced and seasick. Ah, memories.... 

A tight little ship for an ocean trip 
Was the vessel named Noah's Ark; 
No craft that blew could match her crew 
As she plowed the waters dark. 

Cho: Blow ye winds, hi-ho; 
A-sailing we will go 
We'll stay no more 
On Canaan's shore 
So let the music play-ay-ay; 
I'm off on an elephant's back 
To seek humanity's track: 
I'm off to my love with a pure-white dove 
To flap her wings away! 

Old Noah, he could barely see 
Through the pouring rain and mist: 
His missus, she wished with him to be 
And then the two of 'em kissed 

(Cho.) 

I say there, that was a sea-trip! Good that the lions left the sheep alone, however. And the unicorns and jabberwocks totally missed the boat.... 
So: where was I? Yes. The years went by, and the Lord God commanded me—He gave me powers of prophecy, don't ye know, though not so great as Friend Moses—to shadow the Israelites. I was to whittle 'em down to size, if they got too proud, too hoity-toity.  
I found myself in the Kingdom of Bashan, where the locals all seemed monstrous—how shall I say this?--short. Awed by my massive height, they chose me as king. Who could blame them? My being king led to my last mention in God's Book. The Torah, of course. How else could an old rascal like me, son of a fallen angel and all, be mentioned in this Sacred Document? Still, there I am, in Num. 21:33:  
"The Israelites marched...up the road to Bashan, and King Og of Bashan...came out to engage them in battle." 
The story goes that the Israelites utterly destroyed me and my people, and that Moses personally slew me. Humph!  
I ask you. I, an Immortal, half-fallen-angel—how could that elderly rabbi (whom I respect, make no mistake) have raised a sword to defeat, let alone chop up, one such as I? It's all editing, y'see; all clever writing.  
Truth is, we sent out perhaps a couple of platoons to give battle to your folk. It was a mere gesture—a reconnaissance by force, let us say.  
And I live on, as you see. Forever. It is my glory, and my doom: to afflict Israel when they become too self-assured, too prideful. Why? Because I, Og, a creature who is half the son of a fallen angel, is also part demon, and Israel must forever be reminded of their fallibility and their tendency to overreach.  
What's the clock? You must go, Stranger: my cave-door will swing shut, until God or the Fates ordain that it open again, for me to exit and work my wiles (or God's) against Israel. Here is some Torah for you to chew on: 

Thus says the Lord: 
Let not the wise glory in their wisdom; 
Let not the strong glory in their strength; 
...But only in this should they glory: 
That they are devoted to Me.  
For I, the LORD act with kindness, 
Justice, and equity in this world; 
For in these do I delight.