Progress in the desert and the giving of the Torah
Parsha and its fulfillment - Naso - Shavuot - Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - 5779
Our Parasha is a continuation of the Parashat Bamidbar - the census and the continuation of the preparations for the journey to the Land of Israel. The reading of our Parsha takes on a special significance when it is close to Shavuot, the time of the giving of our Torah. It also has a direction for dealing with one of the complex challenges of the modern era and the cross-continental media that make the world a global village.
The desert is not only the midpoint separating Egypt from the Land of Israel. The period of the desert in general is the period of spiritual preparation of the Jewish people before entering the Land of Israel. A newly born nation that just received the Torah in the Sinai desert. On its birth certificate, the line of the place of birth reads: "Bamidbar. Desert" Because "all the virtue and speech that Israel has acquired is from the desert," and so it says (Song of Songs 8: 5): " Who is she that comes up from the desert?"
“The Torah is from the desert, the Man is from the desert, Slav (quail) is from the desert, “the clouds of Glory" by which they were sheltered are from the desert, everything is from the desert, for it is written “He found him in a desert region” (Dvarim 32:10), and in Jeremiah 31:2: “Found favor in the wilderness”. (Sfatei Cohen Bamidvar 1:1)
The period of spiritual shaping is meant to be a spiritual preparation before arriving at a land, which has many constraints of life and livelihood, and there are many "distractions" which may distract from the spiritual world.
“Rabbi Yoḥanan said: “It is not in heaven” means that Torah is not to be found in the haughty, those who raise their self-image as though they were in heaven. “Nor is it beyond the sea” means that it is not to be found among merchants or traders who are constantly traveling and do not have the time to study Torah properly” (Eruvin 55a).
Therefore, it is not by chance that the desert was chosen to be the place where the people of Israel prepared for entering the land. In a sterile place in which he was freed from the preoccupation of the daily physical existence and free for spiritual pursuits.
It is not coincidental that the Sinai desert was chosen as the place where the Torah was given: "In three things the Torah was given: in the wilderness and in fire and in water, what is this for all the people of the world?" (Mekhilta Parashat HaChodesh). The desert is accessible and open to all, and thus staying in it is "free". A place without a real estate value, so too does the Torah not belong to one sector or another, it is "free" and accessible to all, and anyone who wants to use it and buy it is entitled to it. "
Why was the law given in the desert? To teach us that just as the desert is free to all men, so the words of the law are free to all who desire to learn them. Also, lest a man should say: “I am a student of the law that was given to me and my ancestors, while you and your ancestors are not students of the law; your ancestors were strangers”; hence it is written: An inheritance of the congregation of Jacob (Deut. 33:4). This tells us that the law was an inheritance for all who associate themselves with Jacob. Even outsiders who devote themselves to the law are equal (Mlidrash Tanchuma Vayakhel).
The Torah is not from this world, but from a Supreme world and therefore the Torah is equal to all, and no one receives more than the other" (Maharal Netivot Olam – Netiv haTorah - Chapter 2).
The Torah is "free" even in the sense that whoever buys it acquires a spiritual value of the first order and does not buy a lucrative profession for himself.
There is another sense that the Torah was given in the desert.
The desert is a place of humility and of correct proportions between the main and the less important: "
אמר רב מתנה מאי דכתיב וממדבר מתנה אם משים אדם עצמו כמדבר זה שהכל דשין בו תלמודו מתקיים בידו ואם לאו אין תלמודו מתקיים בידו
Similarly, Rav Mattana said: What is the meaning of that which is written: “The well that the princes dug out, that the nobles of the people delved, with the scepter, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah” (Numbers 21:18)? If a person makes himself humble like this wilderness, which is open to all and upon which everyone treads, his Torah study will endure and be given to him as a gift [mattana]. And if not, his Torah study will not endure. (Eruvin 54a).
"This interpretation is as it was explained before, that the Torah does not belong only some but to all. (Maharal ibid).
Precisely in an age of progress, the Jewish people needs formative frameworks such as the desert that will enable it to continue the eternal process of giving the Torah.
Progress and the media it developed have brought a blessing to the world. It has transformed the world into a global village where physical distance no longer constitutes a barrier between peoples and cultures. It enables the nations to help each other, and to be blessed with the resources of others. But this sophistication has become an arena in which a great deal of effort is invested to capture one's attention. Whose inclusion causes a flood of information and attention to the takeover and suffocation, to the point of addiction. In so doing, it distracts itself from the self, from the spiritual world and from divinity. And the continued realization of the “Maamad Har Sinai”. It is precisely in this age that man needs a "desert corner" for a sterile space free from external influences in which he can detach himself of all kinds of distractions for quality time, fill his batteries and unite with his self and G-d, with his mind and his soul.