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Dedicated in memory of Alice Setton

           Parshat Bamidbar                                                            May 15, 2021  4 Sivan, 5781
                                              Rabbi Jonathan Sacks on Bamidbar
              ARTSCROLL  726           The parsha of Bamidbar   we know it was given through   approach taken by the
                                                               fire? From Exodus 19:18: “And  Sages. What mattered to
                                       is generally read on the
                 HERTZ   568           Shabbat before Shavuot,  Mount Sinai was all in smoke   them is that all three are
                                       z’man matan torateinu,   as God had come down upon it  free.
                  HAFTORAH             “the time of the giving of  in fire.” How do we know it was
             ARTSCROLL   1180          our law,” the revelation   given through water? As it says   Staying for a moment with
                                                                                           the comparison of Torah
                  HERTZ  582           at Sinai. So the Sages,   in Judges 5:4, “The heavens
                                       believing that nothing is   dripped and the clouds dripped   and the wilderness, there
                                       coincidental, searched for  water [at Sinai].” How do we   were surely other significant
                                                                                           analogies that might have
                     Times             some connection between  know it was given through   been made. The wilderness
                                       the two. To find one is   wilderness? [As it says above,]
                                       not easy. There is      “And God spoke to Moses in   is a place of silence where
           Weekly Times                  nothing in the parsha   the Sinai Wilderness.” And why   you can hear the voice of
                                       about the giving of the   was the Torah given through   God. The wilderness is a
           Shacharit: Sun.                    8:30 am                                      place away from the
           Mon. & Thurs.     6:35/7:45 am   Torah. Instead, it is   these three things? Just as   distractions of towns and
           Tues, Wed. & Fri.    6:45/7:45 am   about a census of the   [fire, water, and wilderness]   cities, fields and farms,
                                       Israelites. Nor is its   are free to all the inhabitants
           Mincha               7:45 pm   setting helpful. We are   of the world, so too are the   where you can focus on the
                                       told at the beginning that  words of Torah free to them,   presence of God. The
           Shabbat Times                 the events about to be   as it says in Isaiah 55:1, “Oh,   wilderness is a place where
                                       described took place in   all who are thirsty, come for   you realize how vulnerable
           Friday Night         7:00 pm                                                    you are: you feel like sheep
           Mincha                      “the wilderness of Sinai,”  water…even if you have no   in need of a shepherd. The
                                       whereas when the Torah  money.”
           Candle Lighting      7:46 pm   speaks about the great                           wilderness is a place where
                                       revelation, it talks about   The Midrash takes three words  it is easy to get lost, and
           Hashkama             8:00 am   “Mount Sinai.” One is a   associated with Sinai – fire   you need some equivalent
                                       general region, the other   (that was blazing on the   of a Google-maps-of-the-
           Parsha Shiur         8:30 am                        mountain just before the    soul. The wilderness is a
                                       a specific mountain     revelation), water (based on a  place where you feel your
           Main Sanctuary       9:00 am   within that region. Nor   phrase in the Song of Deborah)  isolation and you reach out
                                       are the Israelites at this   and wilderness (as at the   to a force beyond you. Even
           Beit Midrash         9:15 am   stage walking towards   beginning of our parsha, and   the Hebrew name for
                                       Mount Sinai. To the
           Youth Minyan         9:45 am   contrary, they are   also in Exodus 19:1, 2), and it  wilderness, midbar, comes
                                       preparing to leave. They   connects them by saying that   from the same root as
           Gemara Shiur          6:40 pm   are about to begin the   “they are free to all the   “word” (davar) and “to
                                       second part of their    inhabitants of the world.” This   speak” (d-b-r). Yet these
           Mincha/SS            7:40 pm   journey, from Sinai to the   is not the association most of   were not the connections
                                       Promised Land.          us would make. Fire is      the Sages of the Midrash
           Shabbat Ends         8:55 pm                        associated with heat, warmth,   made. Why not? The Sages
                                       The Sages did,          energy. Water is associated   understood that something
                   Latest Times for    nonetheless, make a     with quenching thirst and   profound was born at Mount
                Shema/Shemoneh Esrei
                                       connection, and it is a   making things grow.       Sinai, and this has
                                       surprising one: “And God  Wilderness is the space   distinguished Jewish life
           May 15           9:14/10:26 am   spoke to Moses in the   between: neither starting point  ever since. It was the
                                       Sinai                   nor destination, the place   democratization of
           May 22           9:11/10:25 am
                                       Wilderness” (Numbers    where you need signposts and  knowledge. Literacy and
                                       1:1). Why the Sinai
                    Next Shabbat                                             a sense of direction. All three   knowledge of the law was
                      Nasso            Wilderness? From here   would therefore make good   no longer to be confined to
                                       the Sages taught that the  metaphors for the Torah. It   a priestly elite. For the first
           Mincha               7:00 pm   Torah was given through  warms. It energizes. It   time in history everyone
                                       three things: fire, water,   satisfies spiritual thirst. It gives  was to have access to
                                       and wilderness. How do
           Candle Lighting      7:53 pm                        direction. Yet that is not the   knowledge, education and
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