“G‑d spoke to Moses in the desert of Sinai (Numbers 1:1)
The Torah was given to the people of Israel in the ownerless desert. For if it were given in the Land of Israel, the residents of the Land of Israel would say, “It is ours”; and if it were given in some other place, the residents of that place would say, “It is ours.” Therefore it was given in the wilderness, so that anyone who wishes to acquire it may acquire it. (Mechilta d’Rashbi)”
“Numbers (Sefer Bemidbar) plays a game familiar to anyone who knows Jews. What is the first thing a Jew does when meeting another Jew? We play Jewish geography. Where are you from? we ask. Do you know so and so?
Some things never change.
The Hebrew Bible is about a lot of things—you could say it’s about everything—but one thing that it cares about a great deal is setting up the trusted network of what eventually comes to be known as the Jewish people.”
“Saying a person’s name correctly is a way of recognizing his or her individuality. Most of us appreciate when someone we hardly know remembers meeting us and calls us by name; it is an affirmation that we matter. When I meet someone new and introduce myself, often the person looks confused over how to pronounce my first name, asking “would you repeat that?” or “how do you spell that?” I have learned to say, “Vered rhymes with Jared, but with a V.” After the mnemonic, my name is almost always said correctly. It may seem small, but it is a way of acknowledging that I matter.”
“At first glance this week’s parashah, Bemidbar, seems rather tedious. After all, it consists mainly of the names of the heads of all the tribes, given in the context of a census of the Israelites taking place about a year after the events at Mount Sinai. However, one name in the census jumped out at me: Nachshon ben Aminadav, the head of the tribe of Judah. Nachshon is a very famous character in the Midrash even though he is barely mentioned in the Torah.”
“For the prophet Hosea, the relationship between God and Israel wavered between fealty and disloyalty. God’s relationship with Israel was compared by him to a marriage between a husband and a disloyal wife. The purpose of his message, obviously, was to encourage a faithfulness in the relationship between God and Israel. To this purpose, Hosea concluded this message with the now often quoted betrothal anthem: ‘And I will espouse you forever: I will espouse you with righteousness and justice, and with goodness and mercy, and I will espouse you with faithfulness (b’emunah); then you shall be devoted to the Lord.’ (2:21-22)”