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Snakes and Scorpions: Marc Gafni

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We have all met snakes and scorpions.

The biblical master ask the students. The mantra reads. The pit was empty, it had no water.

{This comes from the description of the pit that Joseph is thrown into by his brothers in the famous biblical story and Broadway play}

Says the master. “If it had no water, don’t we know that it was empty? The master replies, this was an emptiness which bred evil. “Water it did not have, snakes and scorpions it did!” Emptiness always breeds in its wake ethical myth text describes the pit into which Joseph was thrown by his jealous brothers: “The pit was empty, it had not water,” reads the story

But isn’t this redundant?

Of course, the real pit at play in the biblical myth is not simply a pit in the Earth. The pit is in the ground of being of Joseph’s brothers. It is their own gaping sense of emptiness which makes them envy Joseph so. It is their inability to walk through their own pit (void) that moves them to project a pit in the world in which they would cast their brother. The snakes and scorpions come from the unacknowledged emptiness of the brothers.

No, Joseph is not perfect, but when we respond to a person viscerally, it virtually always tells us more about ourselves than the person. The brothers’ own felt emptiness – their pit – moved them to the murderous rage of attempted fratricide.

You see, up till this point in the book of Genesis one son has always been chosen as the inheritor of blessing. Abel was chosen over Cain. Shem over Ham and Yefet. Isaac over Ishmael and Jacob over Esav. The brothers were convinced that Jacob their father was going to likewise choose Joseph over them. Joseph’s existence called into question the integrity of their stories. When the value and dignity of our stories are called into question we brush up against the emptiness. The inability to walk through the emptiness to the fullness is the source of all ethical collapse.

Ethics without eros is doomed. It is only from a place of fullness of being that we can reach out in love to others. The first step to love is always self-love. If you don’t fill yourself up with love then you have precious little to dole out. As long as my love is not rooted in my erotic matrix, the inside of my fullness, it is doomed to fail. I will have to rely on an ethical source outside myself in reference to which I must always be a sinner. No one is ever able to consistently follow external rule sets that seem to violate our inner desire.

However, if ethics well up from the inside, if we are at the center, then sin is not disobedience, but the violation of human well-being. In the end all ethical failure is a violation of eros
– your own or someone else’s.

marc gafni
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