The Book of Wilderness

The Book of Wilderness

The fourth book of the Torah, known in English as the book of Numbers, in Hebrew is known as Bemidbar which means, “In the Wilderness [of Sinai].”

On a psychological level, “wandering in the desert” can represent a state in which we have become unmoored from our lives and are living in a state of uncertainty, whether through a positive choice to free ourselves from the constraints of the past, or whether we are thrust into a new state through circumstances beyond our control.

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Make Yourself a Desert Wilderness

Make Yourself a Desert Wilderness

Freed from slavery in Egypt, our people entered the Midbar, the desert wilderness. Far from civilization, in the shadow of a mountain, we received divine revelation amidst the sparse landscape of earth, air, fire, and water.A beautiful Midrash teaches that the open wilderness experience was essential to receiving the Torah.

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Desert Oasis

The desert oasis is an important biblical image. The beauty and life-giving power of water in the desert suggest a source of spiritual as well as physical refreshment. Ein Gedi, Spring of the Goat Kid, an oasis near the Dead Sea, is known as the place that future king David hid out from King Saul (I Samuel 24:1-2).

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Learning to Love the Desert

Learning to Love the Desert

Long ago I learned to love the desert. I never saw myself as a desert person, much prefering the verdant trees and rivers of the Texas Hill Country or the piney slopes of the Rocky Mountains to what I saw as the dry ugly plains of West Texas.

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My Mother’s Spiritual Journey

My Mother’s Spiritual Journey

Wilderness quotation bumper stickerMy daughter Arielle once bought me a bookmark at a local store, embellished with a quotation from Henry David Thoreou, “In Wildness is the Preservation of the World.”I knew that saying from a poster that we had at our Ranch in Texas, that had accompanied a Sierra Club photo book by Eliot Porter. Arielle had not heard the story about it that my late mother, Betty Hilton, retold in a sermon she gave at her synagogue. (My mother became a hospital chaplain in her 70’s, and passed away at age 75.) The sermon was about her own time of “wandering in the wilderness” and not realizing that she was being led. In a sukkah (the symbol of wilderness sojourns), she got a new direction that changed her life.

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Sharing Circle: Wilderness and Desert

Sharing Circle: Wilderness and Desert

Wilderness and Desert Experience

How do you empty your mind of clutter and find the awe?

Have you had a formative or healing experience in the desert, or in any wilderness setting?

What does the Midbar mean in your life, whether as an actual location or a state of mind? (more…)