The Book of Bamidbar is about survival in the desert. Are there any keys to surviving in a real desert that can help us in our spiritual quests as Jews?
I’d be lying if I said I knew anything about desert survival before yesterday. But in the post-Google age, you can become acquainted with almost any topic in mere minutes. What I’ve learned is that the first mistake people who die in the desert make is that they consider the desert a hostile environment that is conspiring against human life. The key to desert survival is learning to be part of the desert’s ecosystem. A practical example of this is extracting water from the desert cactus. To survive the desert, a person must learn to become part of the desert’s ecosystem and not view is as antagonistic.
This is such an important lesson for all of us. Not every tension, not every disagreement is necessarily antagonism. Friends can agree to disagree. Family members can have different perspectives on even important issues without it leading to an all-out war. Difficult situations can be the breeding grounds for very positive outcomes.
As important as this rule is for our interpersonal relationships, it is just as important in our religious outlook. When we see the title of a shiur comparing a modern, contemporary idea with Halacha (Abortion and Halacha, Global Warming in the View of the Torah) what is our gut reaction? Do we assume that there is irresolvable tension between the two ideas? Do we believe that the Torah is by definition hostile to the world in which we live? Do we think that the Torah conspires against us living our lives as we want to? Or do we view the Torah as an ecosystem in which we can not only survive, but thrive and grow?