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Bamidbar. Why a Wilderness?

This week we begin Sefer Bamidbar – “In the Wilderness”. We began our national existence in this rugged and harsh environment. There we received the Torah. Why there? Why in a wasteland? Why not in the land of Israel? Or maybe even in Egypt?

So please discuss:

  • Why are the Jewish people “born” in the wilderness and not within a civilization like Canaan or Egypt?

  • The Torah is given in the wilderness. Can you think of a good reason why?

  • Jeremiah complained about the corruption in Jerusalem. He stated “ Oh, to be in the desert, at an encampment for wayfarers! Oh, to leave my people, to go away from them— For they are all adulterers, A band of rogues.” (Jer 9:1) What is the wilderness about for Jeremiah? Might this explain why Israel is formed and why the Torah is given in the wilderness?

  • What do you feel when you encounter a “midbar,” a desert or a harsh hostile territory? Is it a place which is welcoming? Inspiring? Lonely? Frightening?

Here are a few approaches to think about:

1. Free and Open

“Anyone who fails to make themselves free and open [lit. Hefker] like a wilderness cannot acquire the wisdom of Torah – hence its states: ‘In the Wilderness of Sinai.”