This year, the upcoming holiday of Shavuot takes place in the week between the two Torah portions of Bamidbar and Naso. One of the subjects found in both of these portions is the Sanctuary in the desert and the distribution of the duties connected with it, when the Sanctuary was carried from place to place.
This emphasises the fact that even when Jews find themselves in a desert, they have the ability to erect a Sanctuary for the Divine Presence to dwell among them, and in every one of them.
Just as there is a desert in a physical sense, a place of desolation, where extreme climatic conditions prevail, a place of poisonous snakes, etc., so is there a “desert” in a spiritual sense, created by harmful ideas; and such a spiritual desert can be found also in a land which is materially a flourishing garden.
Our Torah teaches us that when Jews find themselves in such a spiritual desert, it is possible, necessary and imperative to erect a Sanctuary, carry it, and go forward, step by step, until eventually the environment and situation change from a spiritual desert – into the blessed and holy land, with the complete redemption.
In the spiritual desert in which some of us find ourselves, where a void prevails in matters of Judaism, we must all help each other to make this environment into a sanctuary, a fitting place for G-dliness.
The portion Bamidbar is the beginning of the book of Bamidbar, which is called “Sefer HaPikudim – the Book of Numbers.” In the beginning of this book as well as towards its end, the Torah tells us of the Jewish census: First in the desert of Sinai, after receiving the Torah, at the beginning of their wanderings through the desert; and the second time at the end of the 40 years’ wandering, on the eve of their entry into the Land of Israel.
The soul descends into this world to make an abode for G-d in this material and earthly world. When a Jew looks around and sees that the world around him is a spiritual “desert” full of materialism and sometimes even crassness, the thought may occur: How is it possible to carry out this mission? So the Torah tells us that there is no cause for apprehension, for this is the way Jews began their mission when they became a nation and received the Torah at Mount Sinai. With the strength derived from the Torah, they made it through the vast and terrible desert – a bleak wilderness in every respect, where in the natural order of things there is no bread and water, but only difficulties and trials. Moreover, wherever they made their way through the desert, they transformed the desert into a blooming garden – through Miriam’s well that caused the desert all around to bring forth all sorts of vegetation and fruit.
This is also one of the significant teachings of the above-mentioned countings, where each was counted individually, regardless of his station and standing in life, and each was counted as no more than one and no less than one, to underscore that everyone has his mission as a “soldier” in G-d’s army. And, although in an army there are various ranks, from an ordinary soldier to the highest in command, each one individually and all together carry out the Divine mission to make for G-d an “abode” in this world, even in a desert. Indeed, precisely those who were counted in the second census – those who were brought up in the desert – merited to enter the Land of Israel. Moshiach NOW!!!