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Free in the Desert

The Torah portion of Bamidbar is always read a week or two before the holiday of Shavuot, since the Torah was given in a Midbar (desert). What do we learn from the fact that the Torah was given in a desert?

1. A desert is not anyone’s personal property; it is open to all. The Torah, similarly, is an inheritance of all Jews equally. Wise or ignorant, young or old, the Torah is ours to study and benefit from.

2. The desert is a dusty, barren wasteland and vegetation does not grow there. The way to receive the Torah is through humility -through being “like dust.”

3. A desert lacks all the necessities for human survival and comfort: There is no water, no food, no clothing. When the Jews wandered in the desert they were entirely dependent on G-d alone for their needs. In the merit of three great tzadikim, Miriam, Aaron and Moses, G-d provided, respectively, water to drink, clouds for protection and manna to eat. When studying Torah, we must focus entirely on our studies, and rely on our sages to guide the way and teach us the proper approach.

4. The desert is a dangerous place with wild beasts, snakes and scorpions. Similarly, we are now in exile, a dangerous place, where the serpent—the evil inclination—lurks at all times to entrap us. Yet the Torah has the power to allow us to overcome the evil inclination and all the dangers of exile, until the final redemption.

(Based on an address of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Likutei Sichos vol. 2, p. 308)


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