Where and How to Receive

by Rabbi Debra Orenstein

The Book of Numbers begins: “Adonai spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai.” The Rabbis derived from this wording that wilderness was the required setting for receiving Torah. They elaborate: “Anyone who does not make himself like an ownerless wilderness cannot acquire wisdom and Torah” (Bemidbar Rabbah 1:7).

Wilderness – like water and fire, two other elements associated with the revelation at Sinai– is free. “Just as these are free to everyone in the world,” the Rabbis explain, “so are the words of Torah free…”

In our society, “free” is often associated with “cheap.” In this midrash, “free” indicates “open” and “accessible.” Precisely because it is ownerless and available to everyone, Torah – like the Wilderness – is priceless. If we can open ourselves to God and the world in that same spirit of humility, then – and only then – we make room to receive wisdom and Torah.

 

This teaching holds special meaning for me this year, as I find myself in uncharted, open land. After 18 years in Los Angeles, I am moving with my family to New Jersey. We are saying goodbye to a community and friends we love, and we are headed with excitement to the state where I was raised, where my parents still live, and where, beginning in July, I will serve a warm and progressive Conservative synagogue: Congregation Bnai Israel (www.bisrael.com). I am leaving one synagogue community, and haven’t yet joined another. We have sold our house… and haven’t bought a new one. My home is no longer my own, and I myself feel a bit “hefker” – ownerless, unclaimed, disorderly.

 

Although this “wilderness condition” is obviously uncomfortable, I know that it is also temporary. Soon, I will be ensconced in a new physical and spiritual home. In the meantime, I intend to make the most of the uncertain, open terrain in which I find myself. In this environment, I am thrown open. Therefore, I pray, as Shavuot approaches, to be as expansive and free as the Sinai desert. No matter how rooted or uprooted you may be in these tumultuous times, my prayer for you is that you always remain wild.

Contact

We love to receive your feedback, questions, and commentary.  

To contact Rabbi Debra about engaging her as a guest speaker or scholar-in-residence please visit the Speaking & Events page and use our special inquiry form.

Send a Message

Type your message here option:

Correspondence can also be mailed to:
RabbiDebra.com/ShareWonder Media
P.O. Box 345, Emerson, NJ 07630

  • Get Valuable Information, Inspiration, & Joy delivered to your in-box with a free download of Rabbi Debra's Five Minute Miracle, Part 1 - Staying Grounded While Being Uplifted.

  • Automatically receive more resources for holidays and for better living year-round via Rabbi Debra's periodic e-newsletter. 

A Special Offer

Don't worry, your e-mail address is totally secure!

We promise to use it only to send you the free RabbiDebra.com e-Newsletter, full of spiritual resources as well as news of upcoming holidays, events, and appearances.

Subscribers will

receive a free copy of

Rabbi Debra's

Five Minute Miracle, Part 1 - Staying Grounded While Being Uplifted.

© 2020 by ShareWonder Media.  Proudly created by Tracey Diamond Designs.

All rights reserved. Privacy Policy: RabbiDebra.com does not sell or distribute any information about visitors to or the website.