Bamidbar – Even in the desert

We most often hear a person “bench Gomel” when they return from an overseas trip, but according to the Gemara (Brachos 54b) we don’t only bench Gomel when we survive an international flight in coach, a person is obligated to bench Gomel if they were gravely ill and were healed, imprisoned and freed, or survived a dangerous journey through the wilderness. Now, it’s nice to have a reason to thank God, but we should hope to thank God for the good more often than the bad. We certainly don’t want to be ill just so we could thank God when we are healed, or be imprisoned just to thank God when we are freed, but we see in the beginning of this week’s Parsha we are in the midst of the wilderness. As the pasuk says, “God spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert”. (1:1) We learn from the Gemara and Tehillim (107)  that it is a feat to survive a trip in the wilderness. Obviously Hashem had a lesson to teach us when He gave the Torah in the wilderness, as the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 7) tells us “The Torah was given in three things; in fire, in water, and in the wilderness…” why was the Torah given in these three things? Just as these three things are free and available for all people who come to this world, so too are the words of Torah free and available for them. As the pasuk says, “all those who are thirsty, go to the water.” (Yeshayahu 55:1) We clearly see here the Midrash makes a comparison that the Torah is like water, for it can save us from even the greatest spiritual drought and sustain us throughout our travels in life.

But the lesson we must learn from the Torah being given in the wilderness is; in our lives we may be traveling in the spiritual desert. A place devoid of holiness and distant from where we want to be. But we must remember the lesson we glean from this weeks Parsha, that there is no wilderness where we cannot connect to God. For even our holiest experience as Klal Yisrael was in the midst of the desert. We can certainly connect to the Torah in the way it was given. We can connect with a fiery passion for the words of the Torah, a fire that illuminates and gives warmth. We can connect like water, flowing smoothly with the words, grasping its refreshing concepts and satiating our great thirst for something more. And even in the place where we feel like we are stranded alone, in a spiritual wilderness we can still connect to the Torah but unlike fiery passion and cool water we do not need to do anything, we just have to know where we are and believe that even in the midst of the worst situations in our life Hashem will stretch out His hand to us leading us to something greater.

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