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.

God spoke to Moses in the Midbar (desert/wilderness) of Sinai. Why in the Wilderness of Sinai? From here our sages taught that the Torah was given with three things: with fire, with water, and with Wilderness… To teach that just as these are free for all the inhabitants of the world, so too the words of Torah are free…

Another interpretation of  ‘God spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai’: whoever does not make oneself like an ownerless desert wilderness cannot acquire Wisdom and Torah.


Hebrew Text: Midrash BeMidbar (Numbers) Rabbah 1:7

Midbar Mindfulness

Being like a Midbar can also mean developing a sense of openness. Especially in today’s crowded, overstimulating world, how do you clear your mind, open your heart, and find your sense of awe? For me, it can be standing to pray, sitting to breath and meditate, or going outside for a run in nature. It can be taking a few minutes of transition to set my intention or review the last thing I did. My Mussar teacher Rabbi Pamela Wax taught us to send people off with a prayers or blessing, whether spoken or silent.

Sometimes it’s even cleaning the house, doing an activity in slow motion or anything that empties my mind of its rumination on work or my eyes of the need to scan the latest news posts on social media.

Consider and Comment:  What do you do to slow down the pace of life, to open your mind and heart?

Featured Photo: Dawn on Mt. Sinai, Richard White, via Flickr

Read about building a Sukkah as a way to remember the desert wanderings, or return to the Gateway of Wilderness.