Columns - 2011

    The Forty Year Itch

    by Doug Brook
    Southern Jewish Life columnist

    Al Rokeach, somewhere in the Sinai
    (long ago, B.C.E.)

    For over thirty-nine years I've come to you live here outside the Rock... Well, outside, and there's rocks everywhere.

    I've come to you live all these years on The HaYom Show, here on N.B.C., the Nevo Broadcasting Company.

    During that time, the biggest, most frequent question I've heard from you has been why we're still stuck here in the middle of the desert. Many of you have offered numerous theories about the real reason, but today we know the truth.

    Before we hear it, let's first recap the most significant explanations people have suggested, brought to you by Manischewitz, "this IS your father's matzah meal."

    "Moses is a guy." That, in and of itself, is true. But what does being a guy have to do with forty years in the desert? People believe that Moses, being a guy, won't ask The Big G for directions.

    It's not true. Moses did ask for directions, and was told, "I have given you the silica of the desert, from which you might fashion a GPS." Moses did that, but the problem arose in the next theory"

    "Prospecting for oil." Moses created the GPS, but had no batteries. People believe we have spent these many years in the desert prospecting for natural resources from which to fashion some kind of power source. Of course, this is ridiculous. There are no such resources anywhere in this part of the world.

    This rumor started with a visit by Moses' father-in-law, Jethro. But he is not nearly as adept as his uncle, Ned Clampett, at discovering bubbling crude. (Oil, that is. Black Gold. Texas Tea.)

    "Logistics." Moses himself is rumored to have responded to these and other theories by saying, "I can't even get my family to agree on what the manna should taste like for dinner. You try getting 603,550 adult men, plus the corresponding women and children, to do anything in unison. Or even to want to."

    But the real reason is much simpler. Nobody who was an adult when we left Egypt is allowed into the Promised Land.

    This is not news, but there are numerous rumors about why this is so.

    "The Golden Calf." Some people say this is punishment for the Golden Calf built at Mount Sinai, that not only are the people who built it being punished, but also the others who failed to stop them.

    "The Kvetch." Let's face it, if there's one thing we've done well all these years, it's complain. Some believe that the Big G wants to guarantee many thousands of years of peace and quiet in the Promised Land, without any strife or conflict among any people.

    "The Old Country." The generations of slaves in Egypt didn't actually worship the Big G the way that we're going to in the Promised Land. By preventing anyone who experienced that life from entering the Promised Land, we are ensured that all future generations will worship with clear eyes and full hearts. Thus we can't lose, and won't do anything fractious like split into two kingdoms or endure internal conflict.

    Different people insist on believing different reasons, but the uniform truth is that the adult generation who left Egypt isn't allowed in. Even Moses. The only exceptions are the two spies who didn't fear the Promised Land, Joshua and Caleb, and those guys who wrote our time-honored Sukkot song, "Gimme Shelter," our contemporaries, The Rolling Stones.

    But our wait is almost over, because there's only one person left.

    There's actually been only one person left for several years now: Our elderly friend Menachem Benyehuda, the timeless treasure of our people.

    You would think after all this time in the desert someone would have tried to end Manny's days so we can all go home. But nobody has wanted to.

    We were commanded to honor our fathers and mothers, but this goes further. Everyone who knows Manny realizes what a treasure he is, so our entire population -- yes, over a million people -- decided as one that staying in the desert with him is worth it.

    Of course, the time it took to hold a vote from over a million people kept us here for quite a while in the first place. Moses wasn't wrong about logistics.

    And it's just been pointed out that I, too, have been around since the Exodus from Egypt. Well, this story isn't about me, but I thought everyone knew that. I figured I'm just another beloved senior to you all, just as beloved as Manny.

    Now several people who heard this have picked up stones and started forming a perimeter around me. I might need to...

    Doug Brook is a writer in Silicon Valley who, at the rate he's going, will one day have wandered through the wilderness for forty years himself. For more information, past columns, other writings, and more, visit For exclusive online content, become a fan at

    Copyright Doug Brook. All rights reserved.