Lessons from the Desert

Jul 30, 2015

כָּל־הַמִּצְוָה אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם תִּשְׁמְרוּן לַעֲשׂוֹת לְמַעַן תִּחְיוּן וּרְבִיתֶם וּבָאתֶם וִירִשְׁתֶּם אֶת־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר־נִשְׁבַּע יְהֹוָה לַאֲבֹתֵיכֶם׃

You shall faithfully observe all the Instruction that I enjoin upon you today, that you may thrive and increase and be able to possess the land that Hashem promised on oath to your fathers.

kol ha-mitz-VAH a-SHER a-no-KHEE m'-tza-v'-KHA ha-YOM tish-m'-RUN la-a-SOT l'-MA-an tikh-YUN ur-vee-TEM u-va-TEM vee-rish-TEM et ha-A-retz a-sher nish-BA a-do-NAI la-a-vo-tay-KHEM

Deuteronomy 8:1

כַּגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר יְהֹוָה מַאֲבִיד מִפְּנֵיכֶם כֵּן תֹאבֵדוּן עֵקֶב לֹא תִשְׁמְעוּן בְּקוֹל יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם׃

like the nations that Hashem will cause to perish before you, so shall you perish—because you did not heed Hashem your God.

Deuteronomy 8:20

Moses reviews some of the Israelite’s’ experiences in the desert, framing them as lessons God wished to teach the people, like a father teaches a son. God made the people hungry so He could feed them manna. He caused their clothes not to wear out and their feet not to tire.


Moses adds that God is bringing them to a land of plenty, with water sources and precious metals, with wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, olive oil and date honey. It is a land where nobody needs to feel hunger. When the people eat and are satisfied, they should be moved to thank God for the bounty. Moses warns they should not become complacent, thinking it is their own strength that provided for them. Rather, they should remember God is the one who took them out of Egypt and provided for them, even in this land. If the people forget this lesson, they will suffer the same fate as the nations which God is driving from the land.


The Israel Bible points out that when the Torah says the people will not hunger in their new land, it is not referring only to a hunger for physical bread. Rather, it is also a reference to the Torah itself, which is compared metaphorically to bread. As the prophet says, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). In the Holy Land, the promise of sustenance is spiritual as well as physical.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

How do you think the experiences of the desert teach the people the lessons Moses says God wants the Israelites to learn?

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