Why is it that people who excessively indulge their physical appetites for food, sex or material goods, to the point we could call it an addiction, often yield to many other temptations as well?
Shakespeare created his character Sir John Falstaff to highlight this very truth. Not only is Falstaff a glutton and a drunkard but he is also a liar and a coward. In yielding to physical appetite he also yields to decay of character.
Before I was ever taught Shakespeare’s depiction of this principle, I had already been taught it from the Book of Numbers.
The rabble that was among them cultivated a craving
and the Children of Israel wept crying, ‘Who will feed us meat?’
Though they had God’s miracle food, Manna, they still lusted for meat. Their desire for variety in food was quickly followed by the desire for variety in sex.
Moses heard the nation crying about their families…
Ancient Jewish wisdom explains that they were angry about the limitations on sexual experimentation and the rules for moral family life which they had received in the Torah a year earlier on Mt. Sinai.
What can we learn from the juxtaposition of problems with these two appetites? Can this section help us deal more effectively with situations in which we or people with whom we have to interact are controlled by physical desires rather than in control of them?
The clue is the rule of sevens. We frequently find the most important clue in a perplexing passage of the Torah by looking to see what Hebrew root word appears seven times. Once we have located the word which appears exactly seven times in this section of chapter eleven, we will have identified our motif.
It turns out that variations of the Hebrew root ASF, which means gathering, appear seven times in noun or verb format.
One: The rabble (ASaFsuf) that was among them…
Two: God said to Moses, ‘Gather (ASFah) me
seventy men from the elders…’
Three: …if all the fish of the sea were gathered (y’ASaF) for them would it suffice for them? (Numbers 11:22)
Four: …and he gathered (vay’ASaF) seventy men from among the elders…
Five: And Moses was gathered (vay’ASaF) into the camp, he and the elders of Israel.
Six: …and they gathered (vayASaFu) up the quails…
Seven: …the one with the least still gathered (ASaF) ten measures…
The motif word ‘gathering’ implies gathering for a specific purpose rather than a bunch of people or things in the same place and time by happenstance. While gathering the manna was good, gathering the food here was bad, having little to do with real hunger and everything to do with lust. Moses gathered himself and the seventy elders into the camp where, injected with God’s spirit, they successfully countered the gathering of fleshly rabble.
In other words the solution to excesses of the flesh is an injection of the spirit. Over-indulgence of a physical substance reflects a lack of spiritual completion. There is a reason that Alcoholics Anonymous and other successful rehab groups focus on building the person and connecting him with a higher power rather than just treating the physical addiction. There is a reason that people who exert tremendous effort to wean themselves from one physical addiction frequently succumb to another. People who mistreat their bodies reveal pain-filled souls.
We all need to gather enough to fill our needs. The more successful our spiritual gathering is, the less we need to over-emphasize the physical realm. One of the tragic aspects of many people’s lives is feeling no spiritual energy from their daily work. Working leaves them drained rather than invigorated, feeling somewhat dishonorable rather than principled. Not surprisingly, those who feel this way rarely flourish economically. I spent many years compiling three resources to help people become successful at making money and to do so with heads held high and joy-filled souls. I urge you to take advantage of the sale on The Income Abundance Set this week and gather both physical and spiritual blessings into your life.