B’midbar / In the Wilderness
Numbers 1:1-4:20
HafTorah Portion Hosea 2:1-23
Brit Chadasha Romans 9:22-33

     B’midbar, In the Wilderness; is about a journey. This is a journey to. Shemot, Names, was also about a journey. That was a journey from. The books Shemot and B’midbar have some several similarities. They are both about journeys.  In both books the Israelites are often ungrateful and complaining. They argue amongst themselves and with Moshe. In both, the Israelites commit a major sin: in Shemot, the golden calf, in B’midbar, the episode of the spies.  And in both of the books, God threatens to destroy them and begin again with Moses. Both times, Moses pleads with God to forgive and spare them.
     However, these books have differences. Shemot is the story of an escape from slavery.  In contrast, in B’midbar the people have already left Egypt far behind, spending a long time in the Sinai desert. They have received the Torah and built the moving Tabernacle. Now they are ready to move on. This time they are looking forward, not back. They are thinking not of the danger they are fleeing from but of the destination they are heading toward, the Promised Land. The same, yet so different.
     The Israelites left Egypt, carrying their baggage, often nursing their wounds, complaining and longing to return to the coolness of the cucumbers. They hadn’t let go of the past, of their slavery. They had to learn to let go, to change and grow and move on, and not wanting to ever return. In B’midbar, they are moving forward. If we had never read the Torah before, we might assume that the second half of the journey would be more positive and the people more hopeful. After all, the great dangers had passed, Pharaoh had let the people go, only to chase after them then being defeated by God at the Red Sea where God miraculously saved His people. They had fought and defeated the Amalekites. They knew that when God was with them, for He had shown them over and over again that He was the prevailing entity. What was to worry about?
      However, just the opposite is true.  B’midbar can seem a bit darker than Shemot. The rebellions are more serious. Moses’ leadership is more hesitant and he succumbs to anger and despair. We learn as we read and study B’midar that the journey from is always easier than the journey to.
     So much like us.  We leave Egypt, only to carry our baggage with us, longing for the past, for it was comfortable and we ‘knew it’. Yet, we are excited to leave our bondage and follow God as He calls us. The journey ahead of us is strange, and at times scary as we venture into the unknown. Yet, this is exactly what God commands us to do; leave the past and cross over.  Yet, we hesitate for we knew the past, here we are venturing into the unknown. We can flee from danger, we seek peace. But in fleeing to another life, we become strangers in a strange land, having to learn new skills and adapt to the God we serve, instead of living in our own bondage.
   Our mind set should not be on what I am leaving, but rather how can I serve God into where I am going? We know the bondage that we are to leave, it is the unknown of our new relationship that we wonder.
Luke 9:62 ‘Yeshua said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” 
Genesis 19:17 ‘And as they brought them out, one said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away.”
Genesis 19:26 ‘But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.
Philippians 3:3-14 ‘Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Yeshua HaMashach.’
Isaiah 43:18 ‘“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old.
Matthew 24:17 ‘Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house.’
Luke 9:60 ‘Yeshua said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”
   The promise in Isaiah is comforting and soothes even the most weary.
Isaiah 41:9-10
“But you, Israel, are My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
The descendants of Abraham My friend.
You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its farthest regions,
And said to you,
‘You are My servant,
I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
10 Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
     If this is your journey moving toward the ways of God, be encouraged. He will never leave you nor forsake you. The path is narrow, but true.
   Be blessed ~ Rabbi Jay Howard




B’midbar / In The Wilderness
Numbers 1:1-4:20
Hosea 2:1-22     Romans 9   Acts 1

Our Wilderness…    

     This Sabbath we begin the fourth book of the Torah, B’midbar.  The English name is Numbers due to the fact that it begins with a command to count the Israelites, to take a census, and to establish their numbers. However in Hebrew it is known by the word of its first sentence, B’midbar, “In the wilderness...”  This Torah portion is sometimes read on the Sabbath before Shavuot with tradition being to connect the two events, Shavuot and B’midbar.  
     The sages give several interpretations; ‘the Torah was given publicly, openly and in a place no one owns because had it been given in the land of Israel, Jews would have said to the nations of the world, “You have no share in it.” Instead, whoever wants to come and accept it, let them come and accept it. This is connected with Leviticus 19:33-34 as God says - ‘And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. 34 The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’
     Yet another interpretation is that just as the wilderness is free – it costs nothing to enter – so the Torah is free, it is God’s gift to us.
     This is also true of the Holy Spirit, given to us freely and on the exact same day thousands of years later.
Acts 2:1-4 states: ‘When the Day of Shavuot had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.’  Acts 2:38-39 ‘Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be immersed in the name of Yeshua for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
      B’midbar is translated as ‘In the Desert ‘or ‘In the Wilderness’.  The Hebrew word midbar, wilderness, has the same root as the word dabar/davar, meaning “word” or “thing.” It has the same letters as medabber, “speaking.” It is in the wilderness that the Israelites heard revelation, the word or speaking of God. It is in the wilderness that we also hear God.  The fifth book of the Torah is Devarim which in Hebrew means ‘The Words’.  The Word follows The Wilderness. Just as God speaks to us in the wilderness, He also humbles and proves us in the wilderness as we will later read in Deuteronomy 8:2, in the parsha Ekiev.  The wilderness period can last days, or years, depending on how quickly we learn its lessons.
    The Torah is The Word of God, and in John 1:14 we are told that ‘…The Word became flesh…’  Yeshua became the living Word, the Word incarnate. We often have to be in a place of silence, or solitude; a place of wilderness; to receive The Living Word in truth, The Torah. 
     Since the wilderness is a common experience of faith in Yeshua and Torah, we need to learn about it and especially we need to learn the rules of spiritual survival in this wilderness.  When are we most likely to experience the wilderness?  Strangely, these experiences often come on the heels of great spiritual breakthroughs.  The children of Israel were just miraculously delivered through the sea as they escaped from Pharaoh, Egypt, slavery and bondage. They had also just received the Torah and had experienced the very presence of the Living God in smoke and fire.   Very soon after their mountain-top experience they had to wander in the wilderness.  Many centuries later, after Yeshua was immersed and after He heard the voice of God speaking to Him from heaven (Matthew 3:16-17), He was led into the desert to be tempted by HaSatan forty days and forty nights.  This example gives us guidelines to surviving our wilderness experience.    To respond to the temptations in the wilderness, Yeshua quoted Scripture.  He didn’t make a golden calf, or murmur; instead He directly quoted the Torah.
     Even after witnessing miracle after miracle, the Israelites murmured and complained, begging to go back to their prior life of oppression.  Is that prophetic in our lives today?
     When times of testing come in our lives, we must remember the warning in Hebrews 3:12-19 ‘See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in The Messiah, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” 16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies perished in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter His rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.’
       Remember also, that for every difficult test God has already made an acceptable way according to Him for us to overcome which we read in 1 Corinthians 10:12-13 ‘Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.’
     Before we can leave the wilderness, however, we have to acknowledge that we are in the wilderness.  Many  character traits keep us locked in a season of wilderness; the main one is pride.  Pride will keep us from realizing that we are even in a test; a wilderness.  Often we turn the tables and blame, or land the consequence on God, “He opened the door for me to ---so I ---and it didn’t work out so now He opened another door--so I---“.  And on it goes.   Did God really open all those doors?  Or did we make the doors ourselves and push them open, where God allowed us then to wander in the wilderness, hopefully to see that we were in the wilderness, then repent and teshuva to His complete Word.  
     Doors are interesting concepts in Scripture.  People liken ‘doors open’ to fit their desire, idols of their heart, and their views on life.  However, in Scripture doors that ‘open’ are related to faith, of faith, about faith, towards Messiah, to the Messiah, of the Messiah, for Heaven, to Heaven, from Heaven, to share the Good News, to preach the Truth, and specifically truth in the Word and Messiah.  These verses do not speak of doors of opportunity that open for desires of the flesh.
     Would God have had the Israelites wander for 40 years and a generation die in the wilderness if they had stopped complaining, realized their sin and consequences, had remorse and repented?    It is as with us.  If we don’t realize we are in a wilderness and we complain we will live in a stagnant realm.