Bamidbar – Weekly Torah Portion (D’var Torah)

Parashat Bamidbar / פרשת במדבר
The parsha (Torah Portion) for this Shabbat.

Many rabbis focus on the census portion of Bamidbar. The counting of the people is an important message (let everyone be counted, let everyone count and let everyone stand up and be counted!) but there’s another aspect that stands out to me as the road somewhat less traveled.

Bamidbar is typically translated as “in the desert.” A more accurate translation is “in the wilderness.” In Hebrew, Ba or B’ means InMidbar means Wilderness. The Torah was given to the people in wilderness, in the middle of nowhere. There was nothing but a vast expanse of open desert and a mountain named Sinai, for hundreds of miles in every direction.

Nothing in the Torah is insignificant — every location, setting, person, word, letter, place and thing has meaning.

The Hebrew word midbar, (wilderness) shares two important root words — dabar דבר which means “talk, word or thing” and medaber מדבר which means, “speak.” Root words are always significant in Jewish scriptural interpretation. Bamidbar is the Parsha (Torah portion) where the Israelites collectively hear and receive the word of GD.

Bamidbar is that timeless moment in the desert wilderness where a rag-tag band of Israelites become Klal Yisrael — the Nation of Israel. The Torah was given publicly to let everyone know they had an equal share. Everyone had a portion.

It is said in the Talmud, “If you want to learn Torah, you have to make yourself like a desert.” What does that mean? The desert wilderness is a place of humbleness and simplicity. It’s not a fancy schmancy synagogue with expensive dues, a trendy zip code or a high-end neighborhood. It’s not religion marketed as big business. It’s as far from those things as you can get.

The Torah calls the wilderness a gift. “From bamidbar to matanah — from the wilderness, a gift.” וּמִמִּדְבָּ֖ר מַתָּנָֽה (Bamidbar/Numbers 21:18).

The Talmud defines the wilderness as “mufkar” (free/ownerless) — “a free and ownerless place, without walls or structure.”

In the Talmud, “midbar” is viewed as the axis of transformation.

“And God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Wilderness.” Why? The sages taught that the Torah was given through three things: fire, water, and wilderness. Why these three things? Just as fire, water, and wilderness are free to all the inhabitants of the world, so too are the words of Torah free to them, as it says in Isaiah 55:1, “Oh, all who are thirsty, come for water…even if you have no money.”

Anyone who does not make themselves ownerless like the wilderness cannot acquire the wisdom and the Torah. If you want to acquire higher consciousness you must “oseh atzmo k’midbar” — “make yourself like the wilderness.”

Midrash / B’midbar Rabbah 1:7

Midbar represents transformation, nature at its rawest and the most essential elements of life. The lack of materialism and socio-economic status in the wilderness leaves space for genuine wisdom to grow and flow.

For the Israelites, the wilderness represented personal growth and a fresh start. It was a place where they had to learn humbleness, teamwork and simplicity in order to survive and thrive. GD is a huge fan of the wilderness. After all, he gave the Israelites the opportunity to grow in the desert for 40 years, whether they saw it as an opportunity or not.

In the wilderness, the Israelites cut ties with their past and all their past experiences.

They became Spiritual Warriors in the wilderness, challenging the false beliefs, lies and judgments they had been fed.

A trek into the wilderness symbolizes leaving your former life behind. Wilderness represents hardship, solitude, quietude and an oasis in the midst of it all. Away from the trappings of materialism and the ‘rat race,’ the true nature of Divinity has room to unfold.

In the wilderness no one is inconsequential or excluded. Teamwork is not an option, it’s essential to sustain life.

The wilderness has come to us in this age of covidicus and we too must pull together to build new social constructs and a new way of life.


©️ 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED – Chochmat halev (wisdom of the heart) is my ner tamid (eternal light)

Shabbat Shalom! Thank you for reading! I look forward to your feedback and insights. 💖

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18 thoughts on “Bamidbar – Weekly Torah Portion (D’var Torah)

  1. Phil Sutherland

    Excellent commentary on the Parsha! My take is very close to yours. We tend to be distracted by things. There is constantly the oneupmanship that occurs in society, where everyone tries to out do everyone else. There is something about possessions and wealth that causes people to focus on the wrong things, many times losing faith and trust in G-d because one has all they need. We recall the people after leaving Egypt and going out into the desert where they were forced to rely upon G-d, wanting to return back to Egypt. But, G-d wanted His people to learn to walk by faith, and to trust in Him. The only way he could teach that lesson was to strip them down to the basics where they learned the lesson in humility, I recall Micah 6:8 where Micah admonishes Israel that G-ds demands are simple, “He has told thee, man, what is good and what the L-rd requires of thee: Only to do justly, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with thy G-d.” I recall another important admonishment that is similar in Proverbs 3:5: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.” I really believe the entire lesson to be learned in this Parsha is exactly what you indicated. That G-d wants us to turn away from relying on the things of this world, and in humility, seek Him and He will provide nourishment to our souls. That may well mean reevaluating those things that are important, and maybe even separating yourself from all the distractions of this world where you can find real connection with G-d. Your lesson is something we definitely need to hear and focus on now with all the distractions and concerns we face with the virus. Now more than ever, we must put our trust in the L-rd!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Wow! Todah Rabah!! This is a fantastic comment!! You’re a great chavruta (torah study partner), with a lot to add to the conversation. I’m looking forward to doing the parsha every week now and continuing our conversations…you inspire me to keep going! 😊🤩🖖

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    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Thank you for reading and commenting! You made a great connection to this parsha/d’var and Isaiah 40:3. Love it.

      Like

  2. Avi S.

    I totally enjoyed your Torah portion. Yes I do totally agree we need the wilderness in order to grow. I walked away from a close 25 year friendship which was becoming more harmful than beneficial and I entered into the wilderness. What a beautiful gift I was given.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Thank you for reading and sharing your wilderness experience! I love your perspective. I’ve been in the wilderness too during my personal exodus from oppression and abuse. .

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Shaina

    Oh, Wow. You gave me recognition for the term that I coined,” social capital.” This is so special to me. It is the kindest thing anybody has ever done for me. Great d’rash!

    ;

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Shaina

    This Parsha really struck a nerve in me. The only interpretation that even makes sense is yours. Humility is the only way to Hashem. All the rest is superfluous. The shallow and disingenuous ways in which organized religion manipulates the masses is abhorrent. It is especially egregious the way many of us are arbitrarily dismissed and overlooked. I concur that all of us are offered our equal share in Torah..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      Many thanks and much appreciation for your insightful reflections! I agree, the big business of organized religion needs to go! We need a major overhaul to get back to what truly matters.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Joy

    In some ways we can compare it to what’s happening today the wilderness can be us in our house not able to travel or get out.
    We are learning to make do with what we have,in some ways living a simpler life .
    We’re all learning to be more reflective and just think more in process more question more maybe question ourselves and look deep within ourselves.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Beautiful and true. I am so glad you found my blog and in that way I could find yours. I am one of those who was sort of “separated by birth” — LOL! –from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and from the importance of the Torah and Tanahk — because I was raised in and practiced Christianity. Thankfully, I am old enough that it was not what passes for the sad state of affairs that “Christianity” is in much of America today, and I have found so much of importance to what I now call my Judeo-Christian worldview and faith in The God of The Book. This has been largely due to study in what we erroneously called the “Old Testament” and in the writing of Rabbis and other Jewish “faith-processors” (like yourself). Also in “Christian” writers that wrote during other great wilderness times, like Bonhoeffer, Blumhaardt, and Lewis. And of course, yes, in the words and life of that amazing Jew in the wilderness, Jesus. I am thrilled to find this source of yours for exposition and also of spiritual encouragement. We are indeed in a wilderness time, and if we do not CHOOSE to be in that wilderness in spirit and truth, we will never know what it is to “trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, souls and minds” — let alone make it to the Promised Land. Sorry for the long comment — I am excited to find your blog and rather babbling. Shalom ~~ Jane

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Wild Pomegranate

      I’m thrilled that you are here as a spiritual companion and co-journeyer! Many thanks for sharing your reflections and thoughts! I’m a big fan of your writing and very happy to have found your blog. Rav Brachot (abundant blessings)! 🌷

      Like

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