Treadmill Torah

Friday, 7 June, 2024 - 7:30 am

I am always amazed at how much energy my children have. They can ride their bicycles for seemingly boundless hours. Or play Magna-Tiles to no end.

Then I think of myself and the contrast simply grows. If I am doing the same thing for so long, I usually wind up feeling like I’m on a treadmill – moving, but getting nowhere.


In this week’s parsha of Bamidbar, we learn about the locale of the most amazing event in history. G-d’s revelation to mankind – en masse – occurred only once, 3336 years ago. We relive this event each year on Shavuot. This year we will read the Ten Commandments as part of our Shavuot celebration on Wednesday.

This parsha is also the beginning of a new book (volume) of the Torah. It is the third of the Five Books of Moshe and it is commonly referred to as the book of Numbers. A more accurate translation of the word Bamidbar (the name of the parsha and the Chumash/Book) is desert or wilderness.

Now, why would we refer to the book that speaks of the greatest revelation ever with the name, “Desert?” We might be tempted to believe that the alternate name of Numbers bests the original.

In response to the query, “Why was the Torah given in the desert?” the Midrash explains, “to teach us that just as the desert is endless, so is the Torah without end.”

So, how should I feel about the Torah being endless?

To some, or – at times – for many of us, the endless Torah seems discouraging. I can never master it. I will never get off the treadmill. Our nature is to want to accomplish and if I feel that the job will never get done, it discourages me.

How can the Torah’s endlessness be a virtue?


Here is where I take a cue from my children. Why is it that kids don’t get bored doing the same thing unceasingly?

One reason is because they aren’t as full of ego as we adults are. To a child the thrill is in the activity, not necessarily in what title, power, money or knowledge I gain from the experience. It is the experience itself.

If the Torah were limited, we would think we could master it and mark it as another notch on our belts. Being unlimited, we are able to enjoy it for its endless beauty.

Now, let’s go get lost in the euphoria of some Torah study!

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