Life in the Desert or: The Zen of Moses

The fourth book of Moses is called in Hebrew Bamidbar ( “in the desert“, ba: in, midbar: desert) במדבר. You can now ask how the English translation of “Numbers” (that’s the name of the 4th book in the English version) came to be so far away from the Hebrew original.

The five books of Moses were originally written in Hebrew, and were translated first time to Greek for the Jews that lived in Alexandria 2nd century b.c. This first translation of the bible to Greek is known as the Septuagint. Since in this book there are two major censuses (that means counting the population), it gained its name: “The book of Numbers”!

But since our work is to connect back and bring into our time the meaning of the name and its essence, we shall call this book here: “In the desert”.

In the desert, chumash bamidbar  חומש במדבר (chumash comes from chamesh, which in hebrew is five, each one of the five books of Moses called chumash, so we have chamisha chumshei (Plural of chumash) Tora.

In chumash bamidbar chapter 21: 18- 19 there is a description of the places that the “Sons of Israel” traveled, while walking in the desert for 40 years on their way from Egypt to the land of Israel.

As we mentioned before, all the names, places and actions that are written in the bible are a constant description of the the spirit’s growth, that this was the reason of creating the  worlds,  “To bring to light the perfection of His deeds, His names, His appellations”, as appears in the tree of life of the Arizal.

וּמִמִּדְבָּר, מַתָּנָה.  יט וּמִמַּתָּנָה, נַחֲלִיאֵל;

translation: “And from the desert present, and from present to inherit God.”

So: What does the desert symbolize here? And what is the connection between the desert and “inheriting God”?

A desert is a place that has no water, and life can barley exist in it: When we call a desert situation upon us, (the willingness to feel without the notion of the self) only then we can feel the present, gift, the present time: which frees us from the delusion about the self and we “inherit God.” But what does that mean?

The original Bible text uses the Hebrew words Nachali and El to describe what we translated into “inheriting God”, the meaning of Nachali is to inherit, and El is one of the names of God.

When we turn into a desert we come to the present moment (putting aside the past and the future, the story of the self) feeling the gift Matana מתנה which is the present moment. When we feel the presents of God, we inherit the feeling of his existence, Nachali-El.

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About Eti Shani

Eti Shani was born in Israel and has been teaching Hebrew for more than 10 years with a special interest and experience in ancient Hebrew scriptures and culture. She’s also the author of a series of books for novice and intermediate Hebrew learners.

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