Torah for This Hour | June 27, 2024

In the wilderness of Paran the sin of the spies took place — a transgression so grave that an entire generation was condemned to die in the wilderness.

A Talmudic legend (b. Shabbat 89a-b) interprets the several names in the Torah for that wilderness. On the name “the wilderness of Paran” the Talmud explains: “because Israel was fruitful [paru] and multiplied there.” This interpretation is quite surprising. Paran is the place where it was decreed that that generation would meet their death there, not increase and multiply. Additionally, if we listen for the assonance between words, we find a clear connection between Paran and “fruit” (p’ri): “They went straight to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the wilderness of Paran, and they made their report to them and to the whole community as they showed them the fruit [p’ri] of the land” (Num. 13:26).

As a resident of the Arava in Israel’s south who sometimes strolls around the lovely moshav called Paran and its environs, I am happy that the place name earned a positive interpretation. May difficult periods of our history always lead to positive results that we can later recall.