Bamidbar - במדבר : "In the wilderness"   
Torah : Numbers 1:1-4:20
Haftarah : Hosea 2:1-22
Gospel : John 1-2

This week’s Torah portion opens with a command from God that a census is to be taken of the Israelites. Indeed, there were three counts taken in the first thirteen months following the Exodus from Egypt. While for most of us such counts and genealogies are frequent prescriptions for sleep they have tremendous end time significance.

Some questions to ask yourself would be why were there three censuses ordered between this and Shavout, (Pentecost) which always follows the close to the reading of this particular Torah portion (Bamidbar)?

It is important to remember that counting (directed by God) is a gesture of Love. When things are counted, they are done so to render equality. The President of the United States and the factory worker in Detroit each are counted once; no more and no less. The acclaimed Rashi states “that the census was a token of God’s love, it must have been a gesture towards that which in every Jew is equal, not his intellect, not his moral standing, but his essence; His Jewish soul.” God loves souls!

Generally speaking the Torah portion Bamidbar is usually read on the Sabbath before Shavuot (Pentecost). On the first Shavuot God gives Israel the Torah and is considered the wedding of Israel to God. In observant Jewish weddingS the bridegroom is called to the Torah as a preparation for the wedding. It is here perhaps we find one significant meaning and that is Bamidbar (in the wilderness) is a preparation time and place for a special union between God and His people.

Life in any age can be chaotic. Many of you would agree with me that this modern world in which we live is perhaps the most chaotic times of all. Couple our daily commutes with balancing families, finances, and friends and you have quickly acquired a full load.

Apostolic Life Application

The Apostle Paul compared the life of faith to running a race. While the Apostle Paul was in that race he stressed that he himself did not consider to have arrived at his goal yet. His emphasis was on keeping his eyes on the finish line. 

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.                   (Philippians 3:13-14 KJV)

In any race there are dangers lurking around every corner, some from within and some from without. The book of Numbers demonstrates for us some of the spiritual dangers one may face while running the race. Let us not forget that an entire generation never finished their race! They started in Egypt and ran well to Mount Sinai but never crossed the finish line of the promise land.

The starting line and the finishing line are emotionally charged places, however, if one is to begin and end well one must journey through life’s spiritual wildernesses. Again, the book of Numbers tells us how to run. The Apostle Paul put it this way: “And if a man takes part in a competition he does not get the crown if he has not kept the rules.” (2 Timothy 2:5 BBE)

Jesus Himself gives us a perfect picture of this fact: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:1-4 KJV)

Failure is not our problem understanding the rules is where we struggle. When we fall in the race the victory is as simple as getting back up and resume running.  

Let us take a lesson from Bamidbar today! As we prepare for Pentecost let us consider the preparation of wilderness. Perhaps we would all be better off to consider silencing the myriad of electronic devices in our lives in favor of creating an atmosphere with only the noise of God’s Spirit blowing in our faces.