Lift the head
B’midbar (In the Desert) Numbers/B’midbar 1:1-4:20
Haftorah Reading: Hosea 1:10-2:20
Messianic Scripture Luke 2:1-7, I Cor. 12:12-31
Today we begin the fourth book of the Torah. In English it is named Numbers. This English name has no connection to the Hebrew name of this book, B’midbar, or “In the Desert.” Having said that it is easy to understand the English choice of Numbers. The book begins with G-d speaking to Moshe and telling him to take a census of the people.
I would like to draw your attention to Numbers 1:2. In this verse, it says in English, take a census while in Hebrew it is quite different. In Hebrew verse two begins with, “se’u et rosh.” This means lift the head. Biblical Hebrew has many words that mean “count.” However, here none of those words were used. Rather, a roundabout word is used, lift the head. What is G-d telling Moshe by using this verb? G-d was interested in more than just a number. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5a
Counting can devalue the individual when the total is the objective. How many soldiers are there, or what is the number of old people or young people? Counting can make the individual less important than the size of the group. Crowds can get out of hand easily. Rumors or feelings can cause a crowd to engage in actions that a group of individuals might never stoop to. Crowds can easily get out of control.
Scripture teaches us that each of us is created in the image of G-d. We each are responsible before G-d for our actions and for every word we speak. In our world today we have little quiet time to listen for the voice of G-d. There are distractions on every hand. This brings me to a part of my question this week. In Numbers 1:1 we read, “And the L-rd spoke to Moshe in the wilderness of Sinai.” What is interesting is that in this verse there is a word that appears twice in Hebrew though in different forms. That word, at its root, is “Davar.” Here in our verse this root word is used where we read, “the L-rd spoke to Moshe.” The word spoke in Hebrew is “idaber.” Then again, in the same verse when we read the words wilderness or desert the Hebrew word “midbar” is used. I think you can easily see even with the English letters these two words come from the same root.
This can be used to understand a deep truth. It often requires quiet to hear G-d’s voice. The desert is a quiet place. You can hear clearly in the desert. In our world there is so much noise and so many distractions we find it hard to hear G-d over the noise of the world.
In scripture we see the need of quiet play out over and over. Even Yeshua withdrew to the desert after His baptism. Elijah was able to hear G-d clearly when in a cave on Mt. Horeb. We all need quiet to hear G-d’s voice clearly.
In some ways this last year of lockdown and restricted movement has had a positive side. It has given us time to hear clearly the voice of G-d, to pray and read. We need quiet times to hear.
The coming holiday of Shavuot, beginning on Sunday evening, can also be such a time for us. Consider what this holiday celebrates. What does it have to say to each of us? What can we learn for this day? Take the time to withdraw into the desert so you can hear when G-d speaks!