Shabbat Bamidbar

Friday Rosh Hodesh, May 26th
Candles @ 7:57pm
Havdalah May 27th @ 9pm

Tuesday Evening, May 30th
Candles @ 8pm

First Day Shavuot, May 31
Morning service @ 9:30am
Candles and Kiddush @ 8:55pm

Second Day Shavuot, June 1
Morning service @ 9:30am
Festival ends @ 8:56pm

Bamidbar, the book and the Parasha we read this week are named after the wilderness. It is strange to give so much significance to a barren, silent seemingly abandoned part of nature where almost nothing grows or thrives and where all you hear is silence. Yet that was the painful crucible of the Israelites for a whole generation. Heat, sand and not enough water or shade. Yet it was out of those adverse conditions that a nation was formed ready to claim its homeland. The process was incomplete. There was more to do. But it was a start. And this story that has repeated itself throughout our history. It is adversity, exile, murder that seems to push us towards rebuilding and surviving.

Nature symbolizes the raw material of life. We never know where we may find ourselves. It can be nurtured and improved or destroyed. We start with very little but we can make a lot out of who we are.

Shavuot (which we celebrate next week) recognizes another geographical state, the mountain. Sinai. It is also barren, fiery, volcanic. It was where Moshe met God and then the place where Torah emerged. But whereas desert is usually flatter, the mountain has peaks and valleys. It also symbolizes the challenge of life. The ups and the downs. Sinai, Torah helps us cope with the challenges of life. It gives a framework, stability and roots in a cosmopolitan, unpredictable world.We are challenged by both desert and mountain to rise and thrive and live a good life.

We live in different places. We deal with different challenges and have different raw material. Some good, some not so. We face the challenge of making the most of what we are given or where find ourselves. It's the challenge we have. And the Torah gives us the tools to face the moral challenge in addition to the physical ones we are born with.