Torah Tidbits with Rabbi Oded Karavani

It couldn’t be more befitting that as we end the school year and start summer break, we also conclude and begin a new Chumash. I wanted to share two ideas about our Parasha and how they might relate to this point in time.

First, there are many commentators who state that Bamidmar is perhaps the most important Sefer (book) of the five. Its importance comes from the symbolic title they give it as the book of "[1]בלכתך בדרך” (Walking on the Way). After all, most of our lives are just a stroll down some path. They are not filled with many dramatic events such as the Exodus from Egypt, nor the excitement of entering the land of Israel, but rather the trials and tests of the mundane day-to-day, between the peak points. Indeed, most of the Sefer Bamidmar is a description of wandering in the desert, detailed documentation of the attempts and failures, noting the climaxes but also the many dull and intermediate moments. There is a powerful saying attributed to the Kotzer Rebbe, "I am never ‘on my way’. I'm always there already. " In other words, life IS IN that gap between spectacular events. I concentrate on what I am doing now, even if it’s "only" to go from one life milestone to another…

The second idea is that we were born in the desert. "[2]מי זאת עולה מן המדבר” (Who is it that rises from the desert) refers to the nation of Israel. This actually is in contrast to the Israeli Declaration of Independence that begins with the words, "In the land of Israel the Jewish people arose". We began even earlier. Even before the land, we were given Torah. The formation of a nation outside its territory is a rare phenomenon in world history!

“ניתנה התורה במדבר, במקום הפקר, וכל הרוצה לקבל יבוא ויקבל” (The Torah was given in the wilderness, in the place of no-man's land,  whoever wishes to receive - take and receive it). The Torah itself belongs to everyone, it’s a gift we have acquired and everyone can approach and take. It’s accessible to all!

As the clash between Shavuot and the first day of summer vacation approaches I believe we should have the above two ideas on our minds as our new Sefer teaches us a valuable lesson. Entering what will most likely be a dull routine of late wake-ups and cereal for lunch I want to humbly offer my recommendation. Let’s try to inject meaning and purpose to these endless summer days. A weekly act of Chessed or a commitment to attend a Mincha-Maariv Minyan. Spending time with family disconnected from electronics or maybe even a 15 minute Shabbat afternoon Chavrutah. Torah and kindness are out there for the taking during these “desert” of days. Strong character traits and tremendous personal growth can be achieved if we’ll decide to do something extraordinary during the ordinary days ahead.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rav Oded Karavani
Director of High School Activities

[1] Devarim 6:7

[2] Shir Hashirim 3:6