There have been lots of Australians, Indians, and Spaniards on social networking sites explaining to we naïve Brits how to keep cool in the heat over past two weeks. Mostly their advice seems to be slow down, stay out of the sun, use cooling devices, wear loose clothing, eat salad, and drink. They definitely recommend adapting one’s behaviour for the heat. Yet we still hear complaints along the lines of: “Why does everything crumble when it’s hot? Why can’t we cope like other countries? They carry on working in Israel when it’s hot!”
What would our Biblical ancestors have made of this aversion to the heat? They were the experts at managing months of hot, dry weather with the only shade provided by their tents – and as a camper, I know that tents rarely stay cool in the sunshine!
Much like all of us in the UK, the Israelites also spent a lot of their time complaining. One of these incidents of complaining we read just a few weeks ago after Miriam has died and the Israelites are suddenly gasping with thirst. Midrash tells us that this is directly related, because Miriam had her very own magical well that followed them through the desert, supporting the community, until Miriam died, and then it vanished, leaving them crying out for water.
Miriam was an important resource for the Israelites, and her loss was a huge blow to the encampment. The well appears to have been a miraculous gift bestowed upon her as part of the familial leadership team of which she was a part of. If Miriam had taken to Twitter this week to offer us biblical advice on keeping cool, she might have started by suggesting we take care to stay hydrated. But as an experienced desert nomad, she would also have advised that we take a rest during the hottest hours of the day, stay out of the sun where possible, cover up in loose clothing… and then would probably return to the hydrating part!
Like the Israelites, we need to complain less, and listen to the advice more. It seems these hot summers aren’t going anywhere, so we might need to get used to adapting our behaviour to be more like the resourceful Miriam in the desert, and less like the grumbling Israelites.
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