Torah Thoughts: Parashat Bamidbar 5780
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
Last Monday I delivered a D’var Torah during the Board of Directors meeting. I would like to share that message with everybody.
This week we begin the reading of the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers, or Bamidbar in Hebrew. Our parasha receives the same name as the entire book, as it happens with the first parasha of each book of the Torah.
The first verse says, “And God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Wilderness” (Numbers 1:1). Why does the Torah need to explain that God’s words were said in the Sinai Wilderness? A Midrash (Bamidbar Rabah 1:7) explains that, “from here the sages taught that the Torah was given through three things: fire, water, and wilderness … How do we know it was given through wilderness? [As it says above,] “And God spoke to Moses in the Sinai Wilderness.” And why was the Torah given through these three things? Just as [fire, water, and wilderness] are free to all the inhabitants of the world, so too are the words of Torah free to them, as it says in Isaiah 55:1, “Oh, all who are thirsty, come for water… even if you have no money…”
The lesson of this Midrash is that Torah is free to everybody, like fire, water and the wilderness. Whoever wants to study Torah may do it. Whoever wants to live a life guided by the Torah can do it.
Recently, I heard a story whose moral also centers around the idea of a vital thing that is free to all. The story is about a senior Jewish patient with coronavirus from New York. He went through his healing process in ICU with mechanical respiration for less than a week. When he was discharged, he received a bill for $35,000. The patient, scared by the bill, complained, “I was on a ventilator only for a few days!” The hospital manager replied that the ventilator fee is $ $5,000 per day. When the patient heard that, the patient began to cry without stopping. The hospital manager tried to comfort him by saying that they would be able to finance 50% of the total. The patient, still with tears in his eyes, said, “I am not crying for the money. I have no problem paying that sum in cash. I am crying for 80 years consuming free oxygen without even thanking God for so many blessings!” In this story, we are reminded that the air we breathe is free to all. We could not live without it, but it is still available to everybody for free.
Some of the most important things we enjoy in life, like the air we breathe, the love of our family and friends, and the Torah we can learn, are available to us at no cost. During this pandemic, when so many around us are suffering physically, emotionally, and financially, we should be thankful for the many blessings we enjoy daily in our lives. And we should never forget to thank God for them!