Drash Cards for BaMidbar (5771)
by Marc Mangel
• I recently wrote a review of The Biology of Deserts by David Ward from Sde Boqer. In it, I wrote “Deserts are not places where organisms die; rather they are places where organisms succeed with less and thus there is much to be learned from deserts. It is also probably true that this is the reason deserts play such a crucial role in many religions — because they allow us to focus on what is essential and what is not, but that is the subject for a different review”. Or maybe a drash
• The Rebbe’s Chumash begins:”1. In the desert: The silent desolation of the desert is a metaphor for the lack of Divine revelation in creation. Yet, despite its spiritual silence, the mute world can indeed be taught to express the Divinity hidden within it. The Jewish people are uniquely suited to this task: by studying Torah and observing its commandments, we can unveil the Divine purpose and potential behind every aspect of reality. In this way, we cultivate the barren desert, enabling it to express its Divine source and the purpose of its creation.”
• Deserts are awe-inspiring, and awe is the beginning of religion
• And what do the Israelites do in the desert? About the most mundane thing — a census. This is the third one.
• In this census, every Jew counts equally, because every individual has his or her own unique contribution to the whole
• On the other hand, we have a common collective identity so we complement each other. This is like when we make a minyan for Kaddish, each is unique but the whole is essential.
• Back to dealing with less. There are 18 Parshiot from Beshallach to today and 18 weeks from today to Shabbat Shuvah
•The Beshallach challenge is to rid ourselves of what we don’t need. The BaMidbar remind is to focus on what is essential in our lives.