The Journey Through the Desert

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  1. Lack of Confidence, Lack of Faith

    Rabbi Yair Kahn

    The previous parasha tracked the spiritual deterioration of the nation when they embark on the desert journey. The Sin of the Spies presents a new low, damaging the very foundations of the Camp of Israel. A close reading reveals that the Sin of the Spies contains two very different aspects: a lack of belief in God, and a lack of maturity required to enter and inherit the Promised Land.

  2. "And These are the Journeys of Bnei Yisrael..."

    Rabbanit Sharon Rimon

    The list of travels in Parashat Masei is not purely geographical; it offers a summary of the travels through the desert, and provides meaning for the journey, which is led by God. Why does the list include certain events, but omits others that seem no less important? Which events are mentioned, and what do they teach us about the journey through the desert?

  3. The Crisis and the Consolation

    Haftarot: Bemidbar

    Rabbi Mosheh Lichtenstein

    Hosea is the first prophet to speak about the exile; he therefore needs to convey the message of an everlasting relationship between God and His nation. A similar need arises in Sefer Bemidbar: while the nation sins severely, the book also includes commandments that enable atonement, and others that attest to the fact that the nation will indeed inherit the Promised Land. The Sin of the Spies is founded on the desire to live easily, without great effort, while the trials and tribulations of the desert convey the opposite message, and allow the nation to start anew.

  4. The Wanderings of Bnei Yisrael in the Desert

    Rabbi Yaakov Medan

    A review of various biblical sources indicates that the wanderings of Bnei Yisrael in the wilderness had additional significance, aside from the need to circumvent the land of the Pelishtim and the punishment decreed on the nation as result of the sin of the spies. These sources mainly point to the wilderness as a place with no means of subsistence. It is there that Bnei Yisrael learn that it is God Who feeds and sustains them. This lesson discusses the wandering in the desert as depicted in the prophecy of Amos, who describes the trek entirely from a social perspective, in terms of justice and righteousness.

  5. "When you bring the nation out of Egypt, you will serve God upon this mountain"

    Sharón Rimón

    Parashat Yitro describes the main component of the change Bnei Yisrael are meant to undergo while travelling through the desert. Bnei Yisrael arrive at Sinai - the place they had originally set out for in order to worship God, where they will experience God's revelation and become God's nation.

  6. The Nation and the Shekhina in the Wilderness

    Rabbanit Sharon Rimon

    The Book of Numbers can be divided in a number of ways: based on the years during which events take place (second year/fortieth year); based on the actions of Bnei Yisrael (preparations for the journey/The journey through the desert); and based on the spiritual status of the nation (ideal/sins and complaints/return to the original ideal state). The initial narratives demonstrate that the camp is a Chariot for the divine presence on earth - an integration of the divine ideal in the human reality.

  7. Of Census and Service

    Rabbi Chanoch Waxman

    Why are Bnei Yisrael counted in Parashat Bemidbar? Chapters 1-2 indicate that the Levites serve God in the Mishkan, whereas Bnei Yisrael serve God in other ways: their service is expressed in the loyalty of following God's command and travelling to their destiny, toward the Land of Israel. This is considered no less of a service of God. Bnei Yisrael are enlisted for this service at the start of Bemidbar.

  8. Of Census and Service (Audio)

    Rabbi Chanoch Waxman |

    What is the purpose of having a census so soon after the one in Sefer Shemot? This shiur explores possible purposes of the census, looking at biblical instances of census-taking. Ultimately, the census narrative of Bemidbar appears to send a message about unexpected aspects of Divine service.

  9. The Incense Challenge

    Rabbi Chanoch Waxman | 30 minutes

    The rebellion of Korach, Datan, Aviram, and the 250 men offering incense is complex, with multiple agendas. The holiness incense “test” suggested by Moshe is perplexing, especially in light of the Nadav and Avihu story. Was it a death threat? If so, would it not have been an obvious one? Why did the men agree to it?

  10. The Exodus from Egypt as a Social Revolution

    Rabbi Meir Lichtenstein

    תאריך פרסום: תש"ע | |

    Why is the Exodus a cornerstone of our identity as Jews? What was so important about the transformation that Am Yisrael underwent during the Exodus and in the desert? By going back to the stories in Sefer Bereishit and examining the nature of society, we can see many examples of what it means to be a self-sufficient civilization, disconnected from God, morals, and ethical principles. The experience of the Exodus is meant to teach us how to revolutionize a society, and how to build a civilization while simultaneously always standing before God. 

  11. Parshat Beshalach

    Rabbi Menachem Leibtag

    Bnei Yisrael gloriously depart Egypt, expecting a short journey to the Land of Israel. To their surprise, they encounter instead situations of frightening war, terrible hunger, and life-threatening thirst. Are Bnei Yisrael expected not to complain; to passively accept this fate, to wait patiently for God's salvation? Is God simply 'testing' their patience? In order to answer these questions we explore the purpose of the Exodus from Egypt as a process of building trust in God. During the six week period after the Exodus, Bnei Yisrael encounter several traumatic experiences and changes in daily routine which help transform their instinctive physical dependence on Egypt to their instinctive physical dependence on God.

  12. Parshat Behaalotekha

    Rabbi Alex Israel | 28 minutes

    There seems to be a contradiction as to where the Ark of the Covenant was located during Am Yisrael's travels through the desert. On one hand, we know that they traveled in the formation in which they camped, meaning that the Ark was in the center of the nation. On the other hand, a verse in our parsha tells us that the Ark lead the nation - travelled at the front - through the desert. By closely examining the verses as well as the commentaries who grapple with this contradiction, we can learn about the nature of Am Yisrael's relationship with God during times of peace and times of war. 

  13. The Three Books of Bamidbar

    Rabbi Yair Kahn

    According to Chazal, the section of this week's parasha beginning with "vayehi b'nesoa ha'aron" serves to split the entire book of Bamidbar into three independent books. What is the meaning of this statement, and which roles do each of the "fragments" of the book of Bamidbar play? By answering this question we can learn about the goal of Sefer Bamidbar - containing a profound truth about the essence of Am Yisrael, their relationship to God, and the fulfillment of their destiny.

  14. The Three Books of Bamidbar (Audio)

    Rabbi Yair Kahn | 15 minutes

    According to Chazal, the section of this week's parasha beginning with "vayehi b'nesoa ha'aron" serves to split the entire book of Bamidbar into three independent books. What is the meaning of this statement, and which roles do each of the "fragments" of the book of Bamidbar play? By answering this question we can learn about the goal of Sefer Bamidbar - containing a profound truth about the essence of Am Yisrael, their relationship to God, and the fulfillment of their destiny.

  15. Deja Vu All Over Again

    Avidan Freedman

  16. Parshat Masei - Journeys

    Rabbi Alex Israel | 32 minutes

    Parashat Mas’ei opens with a rhythmic recounting of the 42 journeys of Israel. We are often taught that the Torah is careful with words. Why do we need this long list about the desert stops? Elsewhere in the Torah, we see that time is marked through lists (such as the genealogical lists in Bereisheet), and that this list form can be a form of literary style.

    We examine three radically different approaches to Bnei Yisrael’s journeys in the wilderness. Rashi presents two different approaches: Rabbi Moshe HaDarshan emphasizes God’s kindness throughout the punishment of the long desert journeys, and the Tanhuma brings an analogy of a transformative healing experience. Seforno looks at Masei as emphasizing how good Bnei Yisrael were to follow God in the desert.

    Masei is a fitting way to end Sefer BeMidbar, which often reads as a series of Bnei Yisrael’s failures. But the journey is one of growth, and there is a happy ending: they are now ready to enter the Land of Israel, Bnei Yisrael’s ultimate destination.

  17. It’s Not the Journey, it’s the Purpose

    Rabbi Ben-Tzion Spitz

  18. Moshe's Travel Log of Forgettable Moments

    Avidan Freedman

  19. For Your Eyes Only (Audio)

    Rabbi Yair Kahn | 11 minutes

    Throughout Sefer Devarim, and particularly in Parashat Ekev, an emphasis on what the "eyes" of the people of Israel had seen in Egypt and in the wilderness appears numerous times. What is the meaning of this phrase and how can its message be applied to future generations?

  20. For Your Eyes Only

    Rabbi Yair Kahn

    Throughout Sefer Devarim, and particularly in Parashat Ekev, an emphasis on what the "eyes" of the people of Israel had seen in Egypt and in the wilderness appears numerous times. What is the meaning of this phrase and how can its message be applied to future generations?

  21. Mirror Characters in the Bible: The Case of Samson and David

    Dr. Yael Ziegler | Hour and 8 minutes

    There is a phenomenon of "mirror characters" in Tanakh - characters with many similar actions, personality traits, and characteristics, and often the Tanakh will go out of its way to use similar linguistic styles in order to highlight these similarities. Often examining these similarities also serves to highlight the differences between the two characters- including their successes and failures. This shiur focuses on the characters of David and Shimshon, highlighting the major similarities between them, and the similar choices they make, but also the crucial differences. By examining these differences we learn about the importance of channeling one's powers and strengths only towards productive, meaningful actions and national goals. 

  22. From Sea to Sinai - Trials and Edification

    Rabbi Dr. Avraham Walfish |

    Between the two great revelations in the book of Shemot, the splitting of the sea and the Ten Commandments, the Torah describes a series of events in the wilderness, including the miraculous provision of food and water, the battle of Amalek, and the visit of Yitro. Through close reading techniques, including careful attention to literary and thematic connections linking these narratives, we will explore the ways in which the challenges and trials of living in the wilderness help prepare the people to progress from the revelation at the sea to the revelation at Sinai.

  23. Miracles in the Book of Joshua

    Dr. Ruth Walfish | Hour and 8 minutes

    The book of Yehoshua is the point of transfer from a miraculous supernatural existence that Bnei Yisrael experienced in their years of sojourn through the desert to a more mundane, natural existence in the Land of Israel. This lecture points to a number of parallel events that occurred in both the desert and in the beginning of the book of Yehoshua, and draws comparisons between them, illustrating this gradual transition from the supernatural to mundane. 

  24. The Manna and the Paschal Sacrifice

    Prof. Jonathan Grossman

    What is the nature of Bnei Yisrael’s complaints in the desert?

    Bnei Yisrael were under the mistaken impression that as opposed to the "Hand of God" which they witnessed in Egypt, they now find themselves under the care of Moshe and Aharon, who have taken them into "this desert." Does the "Hand of God" extend into the wilderness, or does the Almighty reign only in populated areas such as Egypt? The people associate their food shortage with their religious perspective, viewing Moshe and Aharon as the ones who took them from Egypt, and thus responsible for their hunger. God has no control over the wilderness; that is why there is no food.

    Therefore, the manna came to rectify this false theological belief. Each morning, the people experienced first-hand the Almighty's providence in the desert. The people were warned strictly not to take more than was required for each day. Indeed, each day they had no choice but to trust that God would provide their needs, that He would sustain them for forty long years of wandering through the empty wilderness. Gradually, the realization of God's providence in the desert would become self-understood, no longer the subject of any question or confusion.

    As the manna fell from the sky, the people were shown that God's descent to sanctify His nation extends beyond the borders of Egypt and into the wilderness. The heavenly bread reminds the nation of the paschal sacrifice, of the Shekhina's appearance and its obvious intervention in Egypt. This reminder occurs consistently, each morning, as the head of each household collected just enough provisions for one day. Each morning, the manna reinforced the notion that God supervises the entire world, and specifically over His nation, providing for them in all places and under all circumstances.

  25. Short Thoughts on Matot - Masei - Moshe's Log Book and the Spoils from the War with Midian

    Rabbi Ezra Bick | 15 minutes

    We look at the introduction the list of the encampments of Bnei Yisrael during the desert journey. The first pasuk has the phrase "in the hand of Moshe and Aharon." What is the role of Moshe in the encampments? Surely it is not Moshe who is taking Bnei Yisrael through the desert, but God! Moshe is the writing the log book. 

    We move back to Parashat Matot and look at the spoils episode after the War with Midian.

  26. Vayakhel - Unity in the Desert

    Rabbi Jonathan Snowbell | 17 minutes

    In this shiur, we consider the unity of the Nation of Israel as they traveled in the desert. The unique situation of the whole nation congregated in one place, together, is something that has never happened again in the history of Israel.  Special opportunities and challenges came up which were only possible for this singular circumstance.

  27. The Sound of Silence

    Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

    Bamidbar is usually read on the Shabbat before Shavuot. So the sages connected the two. Shavuot is the time of the giving of the Torah. Bamibar means, “In the desert.” What then is the connection between the desert and the Torah, the wilderness and God’s word?

    The desert is a place of silence. There is nothing visually to distract you, and there is no ambient noise to muffle sound. To be sure, when the Israelites received the Torah, there was thunder and lightening and the sound of a shofar. 

    The silence that counts, in Judaism, is thus a listening silence – and listening is the supreme religious art. Listening means making space for others to speak and be heard. 


    This article is part of the Covenant & Conversation series.

    To read more from Rabbi Sacks or to subscribe to his mailing list, please visit You can also follow him on TwitterInstagram and Facebook

  28. Bamidbar: Rav Amital on the Wilderness and the Israelite Camp

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  29. Bamidbar: Natural Life

    Rabbi Jay Kelman

  30. A Desert Gift

    Rabbi Moshe Taragin

    The blazing provision of Torah certainly highlights both its transcendence as well as the terror seized the audience at Har Sinai. The ambience of Matan Torah – at least as portrayed by Parashat Yitro – is dominated by billowing mountains; the mountain was transformed into a terrifying furnace.

    However, the symbolism of desert and the manner in which this climate contributed to Matan Torah is far less obvious. The Midrash equates the three, suggesting that the wilderness and dunes reflected an essential facet of Har Sinai. In fact, the pivotal role of a desert environment is already established by the  Biblical text in Bamidbar 21:18. What special aspects of Torah does a desert setting demonstrate?


  31. The Tone of the New Generation in the Desert

    Rabbi Jonathan Snowbell

    תאריך פרסום: תש"ע | | 17 minutes

    This parsha takes a quantum leap into the future - we suddenly find Bnei Yisrael in the 40th year of the desert journey.  This new generation once again complains about the lack of water and bemoans having left Egypt. What has changed from the previous generation? Moshe is punished- why aren’t they?

    This new complaint is different than that of the previous generation. Though the new generation also invokes Egypt, they do not really want to go back to Egypt- they do not even remember Egypt. They are not encumbered with a slave mentality. This parasha contains a message for leaders: leaders and educators have to keep their fingers on the pulse of their community and understand what the issues of their current constituents are.

  32. Behalotcha: Running Away

    Rabbi Jay Kelman

  33. Miriam, Moshe, and Water

    Rabbi Shlomo Dov Rosen

  34. Rav Hirsch: Appreciating Snakes in the Face of Disappointment

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  35. Massei: Don't Forget the Details

    Rabbi Jay Kelman

  36. The Conclusion of Sefer Bamidbar

    Rabbi Gad Eldad

    Sefer Bamidbar concludes with a verse that reads:These are the commandments and the judgments which the Lord commanded by the hand of Moshe to Bnei Yisrael in the plains of Moav by the Jordan near Yericho. (Bamidbar 36:13). But which commandments is this verse referring to? We examine the inner structure of the passages in the nearby parshiyyot, and we compare the closing of Bamidbar with that of Vayikra. What we find is an important message about the inheritance of the "two and a half tribes" who settle on the eastern side of the Jordan River.


    Translated by Kaeren Fish 

  37. Where - and what - is Divon Gad?

    Rabbi David Silverberg

  38. The Symbolism of Sukkot

    Rabbi Ezra Bick

    There are two distinct mitzvot associated with Sukkot, with no immediately apparent connection
    between them: the obligation to live in a sukka, a temporary booth, and an obligation to "take" four special species (and shake them). 

    Why does God want us to remember that we dwelled in booths when He took us out of Egypt? What is important about remembering the desert experience in general?  What is the meaning of the enigmatic four species? And how does Shmini Atzeret fit in?

    The additional joy of Sukkot derives directly from the fact that the entire holiday is an experience of being
    "before God," in God's presence. Normally, this is associated with being in the Temple in Jerusalem. But on Sukkot we discover the possibility of being in God's presence anywhere, even the desert. 

  39. Dor HaMidbar: Failings and Triumphs

    Rabbi Jonathan Snowbell | 28 minutes

    We often view the Book of Bemidbar as characterized by the failings of Dor HaMidbar - the Desert Generation. But to understand the great disappointment of Dor Hamidbar, we have to understand the greatness, grandeur and achievement that appears in the beginning of the Book of  Bemidbar, climaxing in Parashat Behaalotekha - before we reach the tragic turnaround.

  40. The Prophecies of Amos: Oracles Against the Nations (continued)

    Shiur #16

    Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom

    When Amos invokes the Exodus and Wilderness narratives, what does he have in mind? Which other Later Prophets invoke these powerful historical events, and for what purposes?

  41. Evening and Morning, Meat and Bread

    Rabbi Yair Kahn

    תאריך פרסום: 2022 | | Hour and 4 minutes

    As the nation wanders through the desert, it encounters multiple crises. This lecture will analyze the complex and bewildering response to their request for food in the wilderness. By delving into the intricacies of this situation, we aim to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced by the nation and the complexities of their journey through the desert.