The Hebrew name of Torah portion Bamidbar is “in the desert.” We read this parsha before the holiday of Shavuot, when we celebrate the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. But why did God give us the Torah in such a barren setting?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe taught that a desert has no owner; by giving the Torah in the desert, God sent the message that no Jewish person or tribe can own or control it. Every Jew has the same holy birthright.
When our ancestors were “bamidbar” they had to depend on God for everything: food, water and clothing. As we celebrate receiving the Torah on Shavuot, we must remember that just as in days of old, we still depend on God for everything. We can live free of worry, secure in the knowledge that God will provide for us just as He did back then.
The Rebbe characterized the barrenness of the desert as a metaphor for feelings of spiritual barrenness. If you feel empty and lost, as most people do at times, know that God is with you just as He was in the empty wasteland of the midbar. Even (especially?) when the world seems dry and empty, let us never forget that God is nearby and will give us what we need.
Image: The Israelites’ encampment in the wilderness, guided by God, by J.J. Derghi, 1866