Please note that service reminders aim to build a bridge between the last Saturday service two weeks before and the one being announced. They will therefore often focus on the previous parshah rather than on the one in the title.

People and places are what it’s about in the desert or wilderness of B’midbar. The wilderness is, as is evident in the English, a wild place, without boundaries or clear delineating forms, but in the opening parsha of the book of B’midbar, definition is given to the people of Israel. They are counted, all except the Levites, according to their tribes, and then they are placed around the Communion Tent: Judah, with Issachar and Zebulun, to the east; Reuben, with Simeon and Gad, to the south; Ephraim, with Manasseh and Benjamin, to the west, and Dan, with Asher and Naphtali to the north. The Levites are in the middle, also divided into sub-groups. In the midst of nowhere, a nation is created on both a spiritual and a physical plane.

But I forget myself. What about B’har and B’chukkotai, last week’s double parshiyot? Well, the first covers redemption of land, property, people and, in a sense, time. There is good agricultural sense in letting the land rest, but the Torah adds a spiritual dimension. Resting the land every seven years clearly reflects Shabbat and honours God and His creation. B’chukkotai underlines the importance of following God’s laws, promising peace and fulfilment if we keep them, suffering and loss if we don’t. Yet there is also the promise of redemption, thus continuing the theme of B’har. Property and slaves can be redeemed by time. Israel can be redeemed by repentance.

Let us return to this week. Liz Berg will be leading us in prayer, song, reading and conversation, so come  on Saturday at 10.30