16 May PARASHAT BAMIDBAR: FINDING STABILITY IN A TIME OF INSTABILITY
The upcoming holiday
of Shavuot, the
celebration of our
receiving the Torah,
along with the name of
the book we are now
beginning – “Bamidar” (“in the desert”) –
gives us an opportunity to reflect on the fact
that G-d chose to give us the Torah, and to
begin our nation’s history, in a desert.
Why the desert? Why didn’t G-d wait
until we came into the land, built homes
and communities, and got ourselves settled?
One Rabbi answered that the Torah was
given in the desert precisely because it is in
“desert” conditions when we show that
we’re up to the task, that we are truly
Imagine going to sleep at night without a
morsel of food in the house. Nothing. The
cupboards, the fridge and the freezer are
EMPTY. And, there is no plumbing, so you
have not a drop of water.
One other thing – your bank account is
down to zero. There’s not even a
penny. You have no job and no source of
Sounds pretty scary.
Somebody then tells you not to worry,
because when you wake up in the morning,
all the food your family needs is going to
fall down from the sky. And you’re going
to have plenty of water – it’s going to come
out of a rock.
This is how Beneh Yisrael lived in the
desert, for forty years. They went to sleep
each night with absolutely nothing, with
not even a crumb of food. All they had was
the promise that manna will fall the next
morning and water will flow from a rock.
True commitment to Hashem is shown in
the “desert,” in times of instability. This is
when we show that we trust in Hashem,
that we believe that He is the source of our
sustenance and our wellbeing.
We crave stability. It’s one of our most
important needs. But we look for it in the
wrong places. We look for it in our jobs,
our businesses, our source of income, our
house, our car, our wealthy relative or
friend. The Torah was given in the most
unstable condition possible – in the desert,
where the people had no possibility of
sustaining themselves, to teach them, and
to teach us, that OUR SENSE OF
STABILITY MUST COME FROM
HASHEM, and from nothing else.
In the times of the Bet Ha’mikdash, the
nation would come to the Bet
Ha’mikdash every Pesach, Shavuot and
Sukkot. The Gemara says that on these
holidays, the kohanim would display to the
people the shulhan – the special table in
the Bet Ha’mikdash, which had on it the
Lechem Hapanim, special bread. The bread
remained on the table for a full week until it
was removed and eaten by the kohanim, but
it miraculously remained fresh all week.
The kohanim displayed this miracle to the
people to show them that THE MANNA
IS STILL FALLING. The bread on our
tables, even now, is as miraculous as the
manna in the desert. Hashem is sustaining
us just as He sustained our ancestors in the
most unstable place imaginable.
We are living in a time of instability like
we’ve never experienced before. We cannot
be certain of anything anymore. We have
no idea – nobody has any idea – what our
world or our lives will look like in another
two months, let alone in another
year. Everything we are used to relying on
for our sense of stability is suddenly
unreliable. We are back in the desert.
And it is specifically for times like this
that Hashem gave us the Torah in a desert
– to teach us that it is here where we show
our faith, where we make it clear that we
place our trust in Him, and not in anything
In this unstable world, we find stability
through our faith Hashem. He has been the
one caring for us until now, and He will be
caring for us going forward. Nothing has
really changed. He cared for us before
lockdown, He cares for us during lockdown,
and He will care for us after lockdown. It’s
all the same for Him. And the more we
realize this, the more stability we will
experience in our lives.