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Shabbat 23 May 2015 – PARASHA BEMIDBAR

Shabbat comes in at 8.32pm & goes out at 9.46pm
rabbipaulsmlMost years, parashat Ba’Midbar (“In the wilderness”) is read on the Shabbat right before the festival of Shavuot.  So the rabbis often focus on why God chose to reveal the Torah in the wilderness.
According to the most commonly cited Rabbinic explanation, the Torah was given in the desert in order to instill the virtue of humility in its students.  As the Talmudic Sage R. Mattena teaches, “If one allows oneself to be treated as a wilderness on which everybody treads, one’s study will be retained by him; otherwise it will not” (Talmud, Eruvin 54a).
Another interpretation forces us to confront questions about pluralism, universalism, and tolerance.    A midrash teaches:  “The Torah was given in a free place.  For had the Torah been given in the land of Israel, the Israelites could have said to the nations of the world, ‘You have no share in it.’  But now that it was given in the wilderness publicly and openly, in a place that is free for all, everyone wishing to accept it could come and accept it” (Mekhilta De-Rabbi Ishmael, Ba-Hodesh 1).
The Torah was given in the desert, in other words, to emphasize its universal availability.  Despite what the Israelites might have been tempted to believe, the midrash teaches, the Torah was not intended to be their exclusive possession for a those in the club.   It is meant to be open to anyone who wants to live a decent, good life.
Rabbi Paul Arberman
May 21, 2015