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Finding Faith in the Desert

Torah Talk on Bamidbar 5780

This week we read the Torah portion of Bamidbar, the first in the book of Numbers, which is given its English name by the census that occupies a good part of the beginning of the Torah portion. The Hebrew name for this portion, and this book, Bamidbar means “in the Wilderness”. While the name comes from the first words of the book, it has a greater resonance and meaning than simply its lexicographical location. It also speaks of place in a very different and powerful way.

Every time we Jews seek inspiration, it seems, we must head out into the desert. It was true of Abraham and Jacob; it’s certainly true of Moses; and after the Exodus it is true as well for the whole people of Israel, who wander for 40 years in the Wilderness of Sinai, the Midbar Sinai, seeking God and revelation.

Why must we head out into nothingness in order to find truth?

Perhaps it’s simply because our own lives are so filled with complication and complexities, which seem critical during our daily grind but most of which turn out to be truly unimportant. But until we leave behind the conveniences of home, until we divest ourselves of our comforts and conceits, we are unable to really understand what truly matters.

Faith blooms freely in the desert, for there is nothing to prevent a person from seeing the world as it really is, and coming to understand God’s amazing role in it, as Creator and Maker of Covenants.

You, too can find God in the Wilderness—this is just as true in the Sonoran Desert as it was in the Sinai Desert for our ancestors. We simply need to look for God, away from all the complications of our daily lives.

The poet asks, “Must we enter the desert to hear Your voice?” To which we Tucsonans can answer, “yes.”

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