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.
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.
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).
The week-long fall harvest festival of Sukkot is celebrated by building a temporary outdoor hut, the sukkah, and spending as much time as possible living in it. This annual ritual re-enacts the lives of our ancestors as desert wanderers (more…)
by Rabbi David Seidenberg
The four species of the lulav [waved in blessing and praise on the holiday of Sukkot] represent the four types of ecosystems in the land of Israel: desert (date palm), hills (myrtle), river corridors (willow), and sh’feilah or lowlands (etrog – agricultural). (more…)
Enjoy this guided meditation on your inner Wellsprings, based on the legends of Miriam’s Well, written and read by Rabbi Julie Danan. The imagery in the meditation is based on teachings from the Midrash and ancient Jewish lore.
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.
In Israel, you can experience the beauty of the Arava Desert and a unique community at Kibbutz Lotan, whether at their desert guest house and spa or their environmental educational programs, like the Green Apprenticeship, in which my youngest daughter participated.
Midbar as Wilderness not only protects the health of our planet, but also provide venues of emotional healing for human beings, including…
Moses’ first encounter with the Divine in the wilderness is at bush that burns but is not consumed. According to the Midrash, the choice of a “lowly thornbush” is God’s way of showing that the Shechinah, the Divine Presence can be found anywhere (Exodus Rabbah 2:5) I take this as a message to be more aware and attentive to the divine inspiration that can be found in “ordinary” and humble things, perhaps even in life’s thorns and thickets. These bare winter thornbushes I photographed (at Rockefeller State Park Preserve, except picture 5 and 14 in town, and 12 on a trip to Colorado), inspired me with their beauty and with the amazing connections and patterns that emerge amidst their brambles and tangles.
My 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.
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…)