Parashas Bamidbar (Portion Numbers 1:1-4:20) is always read (according to tradition) prior to the great festival of Shavuot, which commemorates (traditionally) the day that YHVH gave us the Torah. And that in itself is instructive. Midbar can be defined as wilderness or desert; the word bamidbar means "in the Wilderness", teaching us that if we wish the Torah to impact on us and elevate us, we have to make ourselves like a desert. Even as a desert is barren, so too must we divest ourselves of all preconceived notions and allow the Torah to re-shape us. Even as in a desert there are no diversions, so we cannot allow anyone or anything to distract us from our Torah study. Even as in the Wilderness of Sinai everything was free, so we must make Torah study available to one and all.
The backdrop for the giving of the Torah is equally significant. The Torah was given at Mount Sinai, a lowly mountain, and while logic would dictate that it would have been more impressive had God proclaimed His words on a tall, majestic mountain, He nevertheless chose Sinai for His revelation, teaching us that a prerequisite for Torah study is humility. At Sinai, the people saw flames and clouds dripping water; flames symbolize fiery passion, while clouds dripping water are symbolic of clarity. The verses teach us that if we wish Torah to enter our hearts, we must study it and transmit it with fiery passion; we must tackle our studies with discipline and stay with them until we have full clarity. All this is a reminder that Torah study cannot be undertaken casually. It is our very life and the length of our days, and must be accorded the seriousness and respect it deserves.
- Torah for Your Table, Rabbi Yisroel Jungreis