Order in the Wilderness - במדבר

Friday, 19 May, 2023 - 10:45 am


Order in the Wilderness 

The fourth book of the Torah has two names: (1) Bamidbar, which means "in the wilderness," and (2) Chumash Hapekudim, "the book of numbers." These two names are not just different; they are, in fact, diametrically opposed because "wilderness" implies chaos, whereas "numbers" implies order. 

Indeed, the first portion of the book elaborates, in great detail, on how the Jewish people were organized in camps while traveling through the desert. The Torah describes the precise number of people in the four camps, each of which included three tribes. In other words, the theme of the book, as reflected in the very first Parsha, is creating order in a place of randomness and chaos. 

We all engage in this same experience in our own lives. Essentially, all of the Torah is about combining "numbers" and "wilderness",bringing order to chaos. The physical world is a chaotic place. Every experience is isolated, each moment possessing its own definition and its own distinction. Our lives are full of tension and conflict; we are pulled in different directions by opposing responsibilities and conflicting forces. Seeing the unity within it all is challenging, and it is even harder to experience life as wholesome and holistic. 

Torah is the gift that allows us to discover the inner purpose of our life and creation, enabling us to see the internal unity in the universe. We discover how every aspect of our life contributes to the inner meaning of the world and to our overarching purpose. 

Essentially, the Fourth book of the Torah is the story of our life. We are called upon to bring "numbers”, order and meaning, to the "wilderness”, the physical world. We are called upon to transform the world of chaos into a place of order, purpose, and holiness. 

Adapted from the Sfas Emes

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