Shaarei Mizrah

Rabbi’s Corner

Perashat Bamidbar

Almost invariably, Perashat Bemidbar is read the Shabbat before the Holiday of Shabuot. In fact, our Sages set it that way for a reason.

The Midrash comments that the Torah was given amidst three things: באש – fire, במים – water and במדבר – desert. Therefore, they set the reading of Perashat Bemidbar the Shabbat before Shabuot – the holiday that celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai – so we could remember the connection between the Torah and the desert. Even though the English name of the fourth Book of the Torah is “Numbers”, in Hebrew is Bemidbar – “in the Desert”.

Our Sages were alluding to the physical phenomena and milieu when our forefathers, the Israelites, received the Torah. Indeed it was in the Sinai desert, amidst thunder and lightning, clouds and fog. Could it be that our Sages were alluding only to physical phenomena and the location? What is so important about the location and the climatological phenomena?

The Torah is the most precious gift that G-d could have given the Israelites, indeed to the entire world! The event is known as Matan Torah, which in Hebrew means ”Giving of the Torah”. However, it could also mean “The Gift of the Torah”, as in Hebrew the word Matana means gift. It contains the wisdom of G-d, Divine moral and ethical values, a set of rules and regulations, and the story of our People. Of course, it needed to be given with grand fanfare and physical natural phenomena in order for it to be part of the national experience. Anything of this magnitude was not revealed before and never afterward; with all their senses, the people there had to experience Matan Torah with all the enormity and importance of the moment.

Our Sages, however, were not referring solely to the physical phenomena; they were also referring to the attitude and disposition of anyone who wishes to be “gifted” with the gift of the Torah.

Fire – represents the enthusiasm, the fervor and the passion in which one ought to have when he or she dedicates their time to explore and learn the Torah. Without such a passion, one cannot fully appreciate and absorb the content of the Torah.

Water – represents the fluidity, flexibility and malleability of the person’s attitude when studying and incorporating the Torah into his or her daily life. A person has to let go of his or her rigid position and understanding of life. In addition, the property of water leads it to the lowest point in altitude. So too, the person should be very humble when engaging in the study of Torah.

Desert – represent the tranquility, serenity and calmness that a person ought to demonstrate when learning Torah. One cannot learn the Torah when he or she is in a rush, pressured, distracted or worrying about many things. It requires an environment like the desert where nothing is distracting.

As we read Perashat Bemidbar and are poised to celebrate the “Gift of the Torah”, let us incorporate these three aspects, fire, water and desert – so we could be fully ready for the most precious gift.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dr. Elie Abadie
Senior Rabbi  
Gates of the East –  Shaarei Mizrah