This Shabbat we will be reading the first Torah portion of the Book of Numbers במדבר – B’midbar (in the desert).
This Torah portion opens with the verse:
וַיְדַבֵּר ה’ אֶל מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי
“God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Desert…” (Numbers 1:1)
The Midrash questions:
Why is it so important for the Torah to specify the location in which God spoke to Moses?
According to the Midrash, our Sages derive from this detail that three key elements were present when the Torah was given:
אש – AISH – fire
מים – MAYIM- water
מדבר – MIDBAR- desert
The Midrash comments:
With three elements was the Torah given – with fire, with water and the desert…
- Fire is mentioned in the verse, “All of Mount Sinai was smoking because God descended upon it in fire” (Exodus 19:18).
- Water is mentioned in the verse, “The heavens dripped with water” (Judges 5:4), which describes the giving of the Torah.
- And we learn about the desert from the phrase “in the Sinai desert” in this week’s portion.
What significance to these three elements have, that the Midrash is dwelling upon?
The answer is:
Just as these three elements are given for free to everyone, so too Torah is given for free.
The Sages teach us also that these three elements are the keys indicating how a person needs to act in his life.
Key #1 – Fire – symbolizes enthusiasm in the heart.
Key #2 – Water – symbolizes clarity of thought.
Key #3 – Desert – symbolizes modesty and contentment with “little”.
Torah portion B’midbar is read right before the holiday of Shavuot.
And on Shavuot, we do not simply commemorate the original acceptance of Torah thousands of years ago, we actually accept the Torah upon ourselves anew.
In order to prepare ourselves to receive Torah on this day now, the Torah portion B’midbar gives us the Three Keys that will enable us to succeed in understanding the Torah and its contemporary meaning.
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