How to relinquish control without losing it
by Mary C Legg
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II-5 Yitro Ex 18-20:23
Once upon a time, there lived a King and a Queen, who said every day of their lives, "oh, but if we had a child..." And the King commanded a great celebration and he invited his relations, friends and acquaintances to the feast, including the wise women of his kingdom. As there were thirteen wise women, but only twelve golden plates, the thirteenth woman was excluded from the festivities for she was known to have a lethal temper.
And as the festivities were underway and the other wise women brought forward their gifts to the sleeping princess—one bestowed beauty, another charm, a third wealth and so on and when the eleventh had had her say, in rushed the thirteenth in a fury and declaimed, "In the fifteenth year, the princess shall prick her finger with a spindle and fall down dead..."
The court was aghast with horror, but as the twelveth had not yet had her turn, although she could not undo the curse, she softened it by saying, "she shall not die, but sleep..."
And the King, distraught with fear, commanded that all the spindles of the kingdom be gathered and burned."
How many times have you read this story and never understood it? What's it all about?
Sleeping Beautiy is an allegory. Allegories lend themselves to many interpretations depending on the reader and the frame in which the reader wishes to place them. They are like bits of glass that catch the sunlight, but as you turn them, they take on different meanings. This is what parasha study is all about. Turning over the scripture in a new light and seeing something different. Scripture is rarely meant to be literal and gains more depth and meaning when considered in little bits the figures are colored like the stained glass in windows.
What does a King symbolize? Power. What kind of power? When the story was drafted by the Grimm brothers, very likely they were satirizing Napoleon and offering a profile on despotic power. A king has power not only over the government, but life and death. Consider all the heads that have rolled over the centuries as a result of royal decree.
Wht does thirteen symbolize? Traditional interpretations relate it to death. In Tarot, it is the card of death reflecting radical change—similar to the concept of ayin, in Beshalach here the Israelites are waiting on the edge. They face the unknown: a step forward or backward could mean death.
The King fails. He loses control. He loses control by wanting to have control over his daughter's life. A close examination of the story reflects his personal ambition. It's her christening, but he has her future mapped out. Little girl babies don't rule, they marry rulers—therefore the careful arrangements for the great feast. He invites his relatives, because like the Hapsburgs, political rule is expanded through the family and intermarriage and to avoid later disputes, caused by snubs. He invites his friends to share his joy, but he daren't omit his acquaintances —the Henry Kissingers and Putins of the world.
But when it comes to the wise women, he omits one. No matter how you shuffle them, it's always the thirteenth omitted. Why? He doesn't want to invite death to his table; he wants control over life and death and so tries to shut it out. His excuse is lame, "only twelve plates available--" A King can order a thirteenth made overnight; it will be done. He wants control and in doing so, he snubs a very important person and loses control. A very stupid mistake.
Consider Moses. Moses is sitting in the wilderness near Mt Horeb, surrounded by a mass of people, sheep and cattle. Mass migration with no mass transit. Around him are all the descendents of the Jacob: Ephraim, Menasseh, Gad, Dan, Levi and Simeon, Reuben, Napthali, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher and Benjamin. Thirteen, count them. Tradition says twelve, but thirteen are usually listed because Ephraim and Menasseh are sons of Joseph, each having received a blessing from Jacob.
There are also twelve months in a year, but thirteen moons. The lunar calendar has an "extra month".
And yes, mythologists do say that there is a direct relation between the story of Sleeping Beauty, the thirteen wise women to biblical literature and the lunar year. Symbols transcend literal interpretation and cross through art and literature over centuries and culture.
Moses is sitting in the desert in front of his ten with a huge procession of people surrounding him, even more than all the backlogged immigration forms at the State Department. "
Jethro, the Midianite priest, arrives. "Hey Moses, what are you doing there?"
"I'm judging the people," Moses answers.
"And it came to apss on the morrow, that Moses sat to judge the people; and the people stood about Moses from morning unto the evening." So it was even worse than the Czech Foreign Police where you stand in line every day for 10 hours and then get chucked out to stand in line the next day.
"And when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he did to the people, he said: "what is this thing that thou doest to the people? why sittest thou thyself alone, and all the people, stand about from morning unto even?"
And Moses said unto his father-in-law: "Because the people come unto me to inquire of God; when they have a matter, it cometh unto me; and I judge between a man and his neighbor; and I make them know the statutes of God, and his laws."
OOooooopppss, stop says Jethro, this is a bit much.
And Moses' father-in-law said unto him: "This thing that thou doest is not good."
(Ex 18:13-25 passage)
Why wasn't it good? There are two very important things involved here. Who is Jethro? He's a Midianite. He, himself, is a priest of a different faith, from a different culture and a leader of his own trbe. He is an outsider sees things objectively, and although designated as a "pagan", obviously he is a witness of God's divinity and believes in God. As all people are made in the image of God, God's image can be found in all men. Moreover, he is wise. He sees Moses is doing a very foolish thing. He's hogging all the leadership responsibility to himself.
Listen to Jethro's wisdom: "Thou wilt surely wear away, both thou and thy people that is with thee; for the thing is too heavy for thee; thou art not able to perform it alone..."
And Jethro gives Moses an agenda for deputizing power and dividing duties among his people so that he doesn't kill himself being superman. Moses listens and implements Jethro's advice. He doesn't argue or let religion get in the way—after all, he still doesn't have a religious agenda himself. Every step he takes in the wildernss is a new step in learning.
Unlike the SB king, he realizes the deep truth that Jethro conveys— to have control over a situation, you must relinquish control
but if you want to fall flat on your face, you hold onto it for dear life.
He realizes that ultimately, he does not have power over every little thing and so has the ability to step back and let others take over.
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