Hasa Diga Eemowai – B’haalot’cha Numbers 8:1 – 12:6

Numbers Chapter 11 begins: “And the people were as murmurers, speaking evil in the ears of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and devoured the uttermost part of the camp.”

Pantages Chapter 11 begins: “And the people were as blasphemers, speaking of God irreverently and impiously.” For they sang, “Hasa Diga Eebowai,” a piece of Ugandan gibberish in the musical, The Book of Mormon. When the people heard it, their funny bones were tickled and their spirit was moved so that they bent over in belly laughs.

No fire came as a result of this sacrilegious music. If Lion King was consecrated to God, The Book of Mormon stole the music and mocked Disney’s feel-good lyrics of “Hakuna Matata.” Without hiding, but putting on full display, The Book of Mormon is overtly a “stealer of sacred things,” of the sacred beliefs of Mormons, of the sacred elevated state of the Lightness of Being of Orlando, Florida, of both Christianity’s teachings of Jesus and Judaism’s teaching of Torah and the Ten Commandments, and, in the end, openly and guilty of the crime of generally stealing what is consecrated to God.

The word “sacrilege” derives from the Latin, sacrilegium, “temple robbery,” and from sacrilegus, “stealer of sacred things.” The word means the profanation of anything sacred and, believe me, nothing seems sacred to the provocateurs, Trey Parker, Matt Stone and Robert Lopez, just as nothing was sacred to Parker and Stone’s TV show, South Park. The musical is scatological, profoundly profane, vulgar, ribald, inappropriate, outrageous, rude and crude, irreverent with absolutely nothing that is politically correct. Boy, is it funny!

The lyrics of “Hasa Diga Eebowai” are as follows:

We’ve had no rain in several days

Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Mafala: And 50% of us have Aids.

Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Mafala: Many young girls here get circumcissed. Their clits get cut right off.

All: Way-oh!

Women: And so we say up to the sky

Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!
                  Hasa Diga Eebowai!
                  Hasa Diga Eebowai!
                  Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Mafala: Now you try! Just stand up tall, tilt your head to the sky, and list off all the bad things in your life.

Elder Cunningham: Somebody took our luggage away!

 Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Elder Price: The plane was crowded; and the bus was late!

 Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Mafala: When the world is getting you down; There’s no body. When the world is getting you down, There’s nobody else to blame.

Ugandans: Way-oh!

Mafala: Raise your middle finger to the sky; And curse his rotten name! Raise your middle finger to the sky; And curse his rotten name!

Elder Price: Wait. What?

Elder Cunningham: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Elder Cunningham: Am I saying it right?

Elder Price: Excuse me sir, but what exactly does that phrase mean?

Mafala: Well, let’s see… “Eebowai” means “God.” And “Hasa Diga” means… “Fuck You.” So I guess in English it would be, “Fuck you, God.”

Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Elder Price: What?

Mafala: When God fucks you in the butt

Ugandans: Hasa Diga Eebowai!

Mafala: Fuck God right back in His cunt!

Hasa Diga Eebowai!
Fuck you, God!
Hasa Diga Eebowai!
Fuck you, God!

Elder Price: Excuse me, Sir, but you should really not be saying that. Things aren’t always as bad as they seem!

Mafala: Oh really? Well take this fucking asshole, Mtumbo, here. He got caught last week trying to rape a baby!

Elder Price: What? Why?!

Mafala: Some people in his tribe believe having sex with a virgin will cure their AIDS: There aren’t many virgins left, so some of them are turning to babies!

Elder Price: But that’s horrible!

Mafala: I know!

Yet in spite of the incessant f-bombs, the horrors referenced and grossly exaggerated in Uganda, the myopic self-centredness of the leading youthful Mormon elder whose complaints extend to his stolen luggage, the crowded plane and the late bus, this is a sunny upbeat musical. The Torah says: (11:6) “Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them.” The Mormon youthful missionaries are told to take anyone, since 1978, even Blacks, and both cleanse and convert them to have faith in the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

That is done simply by baptism. In the Torah, (11:7) “thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them cause a razor to pass over all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and cleanse themselves.”

In Uganda, Elder Price and Elder Cunningham are like Eldad and Medad, moving about the Ugandan rather than the Israelite camp, prophesying this time to the Ugandans, for they have a universal message that doubles on the traditional Christian one – Jesus is great and America is great.  In Numbers 11:27, “And there ran a young man, and told Moses, and said: ‘Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp’.” In essence, the Mormons have the same role.

The parashah this week is tracked by the plot of The Book of Mormon. Both begin with a departure, the Mormons from their training camp for their missionary work, in Uganda for the two heroes of the story: handsome and tall, blue-eyed self-confident, Elder Price with a beautiful toothpaste smile, and the shlumpy, Jewish-looking, insecure and friendless Mormon, Elder Cunningham. The Israelites begin their trek across the desert, but in a totally opposite state of mind. They are complainers. They bitch and they shrie.  “The same food everyday. We want meat.” The Mormons, whenever doubt or desire creeps into their souls, they are told to repress, not express, their anxieties and neuroses. “Turn it off.” Like a light bulb.

Number 8:1-14 is about the job of “setting souls on fire” which is the task set before the young male Mormon missionaries in Uganda, even though Elder Price had his heart set on the ersatz fantasy land of Orlando. But they no sooner try to do so in Uganda than they bat zero. They must start not only fresh as Mormon males always appear to be, but afresh.

Look at the contrast between the whining and wailing and complaining Israelites and the optimistic Mormons for whom the power of faith and of positive thinking in bred into their bones. Moses was desperate. How could he lead such an ungrateful and ungovernable people? He needed help. Call on the elders, real elders, not ones called elder who are fresh out of missionary training school.

What is the substance in Chapter 11 of Moses’ message to the people?

18 And say thou unto the people: Sanctify yourselves against to-morrow, and ye shall eat flesh; for ye have wept in the ears of the LORD, saying: Would that we were given flesh to eat! For it was well with us in Egypt; therefore the LORD will give you flesh, and ye shall eat.

19 Ye shall not eat one day, nor two days, nor five days, neither ten days, nor twenty days;

20 but a whole month, until it come out at your nostrils, and it be loathsome unto you; because that ye have rejected the LORD who is among you, and have troubled Him with weeping, saying: Why, now, came we forth out of Egypt?’

21 And Moses said: ‘The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand men on foot; and yet Thou hast said: I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month!

Give them enough so that it comes out of their kishkes, perhaps as dysentery. The shmiel, Elder Cunningham, who had never read the Book of Mormon because it was bor-r-ring, however was a rich fantasist. He repackaged the myths of the Mormon Church in a stew that the Ugandans could grasp and be inspired by. So Eldad (Cunningham) and Medad (Price) went about and among the people. Sarcastically, Medad griped as Moses did, “(11:29) And Moses said unto him: ‘Art thou jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’S people were prophets, that the LORD would put His spirit upon them’!”  Medad thought, if Eldad, who was destined to be a follower, could be a prophet, what has this world come to when he, Price, was the one destined to have great success.

11:30 And Moses withdrew into the camp.

And Price withdrew from the field of converting others. Cunningham succeeded where all the straight-laced handsome young men failed. But it turned out initially to be an illusionary success. However, instead of God’s wrath getting so strong that He “smote the people with a very great plague,” those converted by Cunningham turned out to have greater faith in his fantasies than Elder Cunningham had himself.

It’s never too late and Elder Cunningham is saved in turn by the beautiful Nabulungi with the voice of an angel. Just as Moses wed a Cushite woman, and set the gossips voices atwitter, it is clear that Cunningham and Nabulungi, as unlikely it may seem from appearances, are destined for one another. For, as the Lord said, (12:6) “Hear now My words: if there be a prophet among you, I the LORD do make Myself known unto him in a vision, I do speak with him in a dream.” It is not the philosopher who thinks in clear and distinct ideas or the Mormon missionaries who wear crisp white shirts and carefully pressed gray trousers, but the fantasist, the dreamer, who captures the greater world in visions who can make this world a better place.

So, too, the scatologists [I know there is no such word] who execrate all things, but with laughter


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