As this week’s Torah portion, Bamidbar (literally “in the desert”) suggests, the Torah was given to the Jewish people in an uninhabited wilderness.
A desert is a vast expanse of land to which all people have the same claim. A desert is not considered private property in the same way a house or tract of habitable land can be bought and owned by individuals.
Likewise, the Torah does not belong to any one Jew, but is the eternal inheritance and possession of all. Thus each and every Jew is able (and obligated) to study it and apply it to his daily life.
The desert is a place of dust, earth and sand. Vegetation cannot grow there and it is devoid of inhabitants. We too must strive to be as humble as the dust; the Torah is incompatible with haughtiness and pride. Indeed, our Sages stated, “Who is he who upholds the Torah? One who makes himself as the desert.”
In the desert, the most important necessities for sustaining life are absent. There is neither water, food nor clothes. Rain does not fall, nor are there any edible plants or fruit-bearing trees. Obviously, there is no place to buy or make clothing either.
Throughout the 40 years of the Jewish people’s wanderings through the desert they relied on the merit of tzadikim, righteous people, for these necessities. In Moses’ merit, G-d caused the manna to fall. In the merit of Miriam, Moses’ sister, a well provided them with drinking water. In the merit of Aaron, Moses’ brother, G-d protected the Jews from harm with the Clouds of Glory. These clouds also ironed their clothes, which grew along with them and always fit perfectly.
We learn from this that when it comes to learning Torah, concerns for food, drink and clothing must play no part. Our job is to study Torah and observe its mitzvot, while relying on G-d to provide us with our needs.
Lastly, the desert is a place of great danger. Wild animals roam about freely, and snakes and scorpions lurk under rocks and inside crevices. Yet it was precisely there that G-d chose to reveal his holy Torah. Until Moshiach comes and ushers in the Final Redemption (may it happen immediately), the Jew is likewise in an extremely dangerous environment — the exile.
The “snake,” the Evil Inclination, is constantly trying to entrap him and cause him to sin. Thus it is precisely during the exile that the Jew must strive to connect himself to the Torah, and to perform its commandments to the best of his ability. Moshiach NOW!!!