Torah Portion: B’Midbar(In the Desert)B’midbar/Numbers 1:1–4:20
Haftorah Reading: Hosea 2:1-22
Today we begin a new book of Torah called B’Midbar. B’Midbar means in the desert. The name in English is Numbers. This book covers most of the time the children of Israel spent wandering in the desert that we now know to be the Sinai Peninsula. In some ways we can see the reason for the English name of the book because of the many times we read of the counting of the people according to families and other topics. Just a reminder, this portion is usually read on the Sabbath before Shavuot. This year Shavuot begins May 25, next Thursday at sundown.
Tonight we read of the third time the people were counted. They were also counted when they left Egypt in Exodus 12 and after the sin of the golden calf in Exodus 32. Why would G-d require these countings? I believe in each of them G-d was teaching the children of Israel and teaching us, an important lesson. Have you ever felt or thought you were just a face in the crowd with no special task or role to play in the kingdom? These countings should say to us all that we are important.
G-d asked Moses to count the people. G-d has a role for each of us. We were created for a purpose. He knows us by name. He knows our background, our failures, our successes. He also knows His plan for us. We should never believe that we don’t count. Here we see everyone counted. Each person had a part in what G-d was doing. Of course it is up to us what we do in the kingdom, but never believe you don’t count. In our modern world it is easy to get lost in the count, to become wrapped up in things of no importance. Let this portion and all of scripture calm your soul and spirit. G-d loves us each individually, Rest in the knowledge that He loves you and wants to fulfill His will in your life. That’s what is important.
Now I want to look at the Haftorah for this week, Hosea 2:1-22 and see what could be the connection between Hosea and our Torah portion. Both were set in the desert or wilderness. Both contain numbers. In Hosea 2:16 we read, “Therefore, behold I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” In B’Midbar we read about when the people of Israel were given the Torah as a marriage contract between G-d and the people. In Hosea we read of the marriage of Hosea to Gomer. G-d uses this to teach us a powerful lesson.
G-d uses the story of Hosea and Gomer to speak to us. Hosea never gave up on his wife. G-d does not give up on us. He loves us and desires to have a relationship with us. That relationship is as a man who loves his wife and will not give up on her. This is how the Father relates to us. He loves us and wants the best for us. Don’t walk away from Him. He is truly the Lover of your Soul.
Now I would like to share with you an article I read this week that I pray will speak to you as it did me. It was written by the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. He wrote about the silence of the desert. In the desert there are no distractions. It is a place that is quiet. It is a place without visual distractions. There are no sirens, airplanes, people talking or dogs barking. There is no sound.
Certainly we can find places recorded in scripture that were filled with sound such as when G-d gave the Torah. The mountains shook from thunder and the sound of the shofar. However, later we read of another event between G-d and Elijah on that same mountain after Elijah’s encounter with the prophets of Baal. There on that mountain how did Elijah encounter G-d? It says in I Kings 19:9-12 that Elijah encountered G-d in a still small voice. In the quiet of the desert he could clearly hear the voice of G-d. He could hear each word clearly.
Sometimes to hear the still small voice of the Father we need a listening silence where there is no distractions. We need a place where we can hear only the whisper of G-d. Psalms 65:1-3 tells us, “silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling G-d…” When we come into the greatness of G-d the silence requires no words, we will experience G-d in the silence.
If we remember, the Temple service of the priests was accompanied by silence. The Levites sang in the courtyard but the priest were silent in their duties of sacrifice. In I Samuel 1:13 we read where Hannah was praying for a child. It says, “Now Hannah spoke in her heart, only her lips moved but her voice was not heard.”
In our hectic world we have lost the art of listening in silence. We sometimes miss G-d because it is so difficult to sit in silence and wait on Him. It is easy to jump into telling Him our list of needs and desires and then go on with our day. We are easily distracted by noise and activity around us, schedules to meet and work to be done. Do we as husband and wife really listen to each other? Do we as parents truly listen to our children?
Maybe from time to time we need to step back from our busy schedule and the noise of the world and train ourselves to listen to the stillness of the desert where we can encounter the still small voice of G-d. We can find that place of comfort where we can hear Him tell us He loves us, He hears us and He is holding us in His arms. We are not alone.
I encourage you to make the time to sit in silence before G-d and see what He wants to tell you. Bless you this week, David