Friday, May 25, 2012

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

This week's Torah reading is called Bamidbar, "in the desert" and is always read before holiday of Shavuot. The connection is obvious—after all, Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah, an event that transpired in the Sinai Desert.

In the desert there are no towns or neighborhoods--you'd be neither on the right nor on the wrong side of the tracks. There aren't any department stores or grocery stores-- which is why, say our sages, G-d gave us the Torah in the desert.

Had He given it to us on Wall Street, He would have had to decide whom to appoint to the board and who should retain a controlling interest. Had He given it to us in the Holy Land, He'd have had to decide if He wants it in religious Jerusalem, mystical Sefad or hi-tech Tel Aviv. Or perhaps He'd have preferred a Marxist kibbutz or even a neo-Zionist settlement?

G-d wanted no shareholders in his Torah, no corporate structure, no social or political context. In fact, no context whatsoever. Just us and the Torah.

Wouldn't it have been great to stay in the desert?

But as soon as G-d was sure that we'd gotten the message--that we understood that the Torah is not the product of any particular age, environment or cultural milieu, and that it belongs, absolutely and unequivocally, to each and every one of us--he sent us to the cities and the towns of His world, to its farms and marketplaces, to its universities and office complexes. He told us that now that He's done His part, it's up to us to make His Torah relevant in all these places and in all these contexts.

G‑d gave us the Torah there to teach us that our job is to transform a world which is a spiritual desert, lacking morals, ethics and humility, into a world of Torah and peace.

And more personally speaking: At times we find ourselves in a moral Sinai, when our life seems empty and dull, uninspiring, depressing and barren. There, specifically there, the Torah must enter and push us out of the rut.

Torah is not only for the synagogue. It is for the desert as well.

May the literal title of our parshah of Bamidbar and the many lessons it conveys serve as a fitting prelude for the beautiful festival of Shavuot. May we receive the Torah with joy and earnestness so that this important festival will be both meaningful and memorable.

Have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos and a joyous Shavuos!

(excerpts from