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Numbers 1:1 – IN THE WILDERNESS

“Hashem spoke to Moses in the Sinai desert, in the Tent of Meeting, on the first day of the second month in the second year from their departure from Egypt…” (Numbers 1:1)

Why was the Torah given in the desert wilderness?

Our sages point out that in order to acquire Torah, we must make ourselves like a desert. A desert is open and ownerless – our minds must be open to receive and without foreign growth that will impede the Torah from taking root.

Being like a desert also implies that we must be prepared to live simply and sometimes sacrifice physical comforts to devote ourselves to Torah study.

Others suggest that just like a desert is modest and unassuming, humility is a prerequisite for success in Torah study.

Another reason the Torah was given in the wilderness is that the Torah itself can be compared to a wilderness. Just as a wilderness belongs to everyone and has no owner, the Torah belongs to all who study it. Hashem didn’t wait until the Israelites came to the land of Israel to give them the Torah in their own land. The desert does not belong to the Jewish people, and the Torah was given there because its message, while directed primarily to Israel, is really universal.

It’s interesting that the Torah portion where we first read about the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai is named after Moses’ father-in-law Jethro. He came from outside the nation of Israel to embrace the Torah.

And on the holiday of Shavuot, which marks the revelation of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we read the story of Ruth from Moab. Like Jethro, she as well, was drawn to the God of Israel and His Torah.

By Rabbi Michael Skobac

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