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Title: Choosing The Wilderness

Major Focus: Wilderness

Minor Focus: Torah, origin of

Abstract: Why did God choose the wilderness (in Hebrew, bamidbar) in which to reveal the Torah? God was impressed with its modesty and honesty.

Format: Midrash




"On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, God spoke to Moses in the wilderness (bamidbar) of Sinai, in the Tent of Meeting, saying..."

Numbers 1:1


Why did God choose the wilderness (bamidbar) to reveal the Torah to humanity? Actually, God went to the land of Israel first. God asked the land if it would be a good place to give the Torah. The land said, "My land is rich and plentiful, it is true, but the people who live here are awful. They love to rob and kill and worship idols. If You give the Torah here, the Canaanites will think it belongs to them. Even though they will not obey its rules, they will not share it with anyone else in the world."

God went to the Red Sea. God asked if it would be a good place to give the Torah. The Red Sea was ashamed and said, "The Egyptians come down to my shores to worship their idols. They have made me unclean. Use me to help You destroy the idol worshippers, but I cannot take the Torah."

God went to the mountains. God asked if they could take the Torah. The mountains ran away and hid from God because they were embarrassed. Almost every one of them had an altar on top of it for worshipping false gods and making disgusting sacrifices. Only the lowly Mount Sinai, way out in the wilderness, and not a very impressive mountain at that, did not run away.

God took notice of this. God asked the wilderness if it would accept the Torah. The wilderness said, "I am empty and barren. No one would ever come to live here. There are no wicked people here, that is true. No one comes here to pray to idols, but no one would ever want to come here to live."

God said, "I know someone who will come to live with you. They are slaves and very poor. They have no houses, no money, no future to look forward to, and no hope. They will come to you. They will not mind your hard life because life is very hard for them now. They will not worship idols because they are the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will bring them to you and teach them of My laws, and make them My people forever."


Challenge Questions

  1. Why did the Land of Israel tell God to look elsewhere for a place to give the Torah?
  2. Why did the Red Sea ask God to look elsewhere for a holy place? In the Tractate of Avodah Zara (Idolatry) the Rabbis ruled that there was nothing wrong with using mountains or fields that had heathen altars or idols on them, as long as people left the heathen stuff alone. If that is true, then what was the Red Sea's problem?
  3. Why did God choose such an uninspiring hill as Mount Sinai to give the Torah to the world?