Kenneth Cohen

Make Yourself Like a Midbar

The Baal Haturim noted that the last Pasuk of Vayikra ended with the words, אלה המצוות, “and these are the commandments.” This week’s Parsha, Bamidbar, which also begins the fourth book of the Torah, starts with the words that Hashem spoke in the desert, במדבר.

The connection between the Mitzvot and the desert, contains an important message. If one truly wishes to accept the Torah, he must make himself like a מדבר, a desert. This refers to the humility that one must have in the overall manner that he conducts himself.

In essence, we must make ourselves a כלי, a vessel, in order to be able to not only receive the Torah, but also to receive the שפע, abundance from above. A Midbar is desolate, and contains very little. If an individual is full of himself because of his arrogance, his vessel is full. When G-d wishes to place His blessings on him, he cannot. There is nowhere to place His Torah or abundance.

Therefore, we constantly need to clean ourselves out of all undesirable and ugly character traits. When we are able to do this, we become like a desert and have plenty of place for the teachings of the Torah to penetrate. When this happens, Divine blessings come as well. There is a famous story of a student who boasted that he has gone through all of Shas, (the Talmud.) The clever rabbi answered, “But has the Shas gone through you!”

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at