What Hockeytown and Don Henley Taught Me about the Pentateuch
Joe Lewis Arena, Hockeytown. Toward the close of each home game, the Detroit Red Wings are serenaded with 20 thousand enthusiastic voices acknowledging one common ancestry: “Born and raised in South Detroit.” The PA cuts out after the preposition, leaving the masses to yell out the mythic location. But there in the Joe, suburbanites, businessmen, union linemen all belong, participants the history and identity of the Red Wings.
Don Henley often changed lyrics (as do most bands on tour) to draw in the fans of a given town. Instead of a “dark desert highway,” the cool wind comes from an “Arizona highway.” Every time he did this, he made a connection with delighted spectators anxious for acknowledgement (“Good night, Scottsdale!”).
And so I come to the Pentateuch. Specifically to Numbers, more specifically to a snoozer of a passage about tribal contributions to the temple complete with weights and measures, genealogies, and repetition. Not repetition of a key phrase, not repetition two or three times, but many verses’ worth of gifts presented in identical kind and quantity; all of it detailed twelve if-God-loves-me-why-is-he-making-me-read-this times. Far from relevance to my life or insightful action-points to live out, this must be a joke of the Ancients.
Or, it could be exactly the same phenomenon as Don Henley’s followers and Hockeytown patrons. They all want a piece of the action. As the scene was described to the next generation, each child would anticipate the moment when her tribe (her uncle or grandfather) would be mentioned in the great parade to honor God at His temple. To leave one out would wound and belittle that tribe. Instead, each tribe got its special day to identify with “I AM.” God knew how to build identity in a people, how to make each member feel a deep sense of belonging and mission. This God knows my home town, knows my people, knows my name.