The portion begins in the Sinai Desert ( Ba midbar – “in the wildnerness”) with G-d asking Moses to take a census in order to ascertain the size of each tribe. It also describes how the tribes are to encamp in the desert around the portable sanctuary – the Mishkan. A desert is typically a hostile environment, a place without food or drink and devoid of life and Light. We can learn from the reading that even within the wilderness of the desert, there can be the greatest revelation of spiritual Light. Specifically, the giving of the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot always occurs around the time of the reading of Bamidbar – connecting the Torah to the desert. The Zohar explains that the desert is an area where negative energy presides and it is exactly this reason why the Torah was revealed and manifest there. We learn that we do not need material things in order to receive the Light of the Torah. We can be in the desert and connect to the highest level of consciousness and blessings – raising our certainty in G-d and dismissing the illusion that we need physical pleasures and material things to connect to the Light. We also learn that the Torah, like the desert, is owned and controlled by no one. Similar to a natural resource with no ownership rights, the Torah is a universal resource available to all of humanity.
Moses is instructed to count all of the Israelites by their respective tribes. Each person was to be counted one at a time – no matter how they looked, how successful they were or their standing in the community. By counting everyone individually it created a sense of unity amongst the tribe – each person being part of the greater tribal whole. Likewise, when each of the tribes were added together to obtain the full census of the people, it created yet a higher level of unity. The counting and census took an individual and made them part of a tribe, which then became part of the whole nation. Bamidbar is always read before Shavuot. By creating this sense of unity amongst of the people, they were able to merit the ultimate revelation of Light with the giving of the Torah. Similarly, by maintaining unity in our lives – whether with our family, school, group or nation, we can connect to the highest levels of consciousness. When people are able to achieve unity, without losing their unique individuality, they are able to tap into the same energy available at the Mt. Sinai revelation of the Torah.
In the fifth reading in the portion of Bamidbar, there are five dots over the word “VeAharon”. Since there are no random or extraneous letters or punctuation in the Torah, we know there is a deeper meaning here. We can connect to the five dots and to the High Priest Aharon who represents healing. This connection to healing sets the stage for our connection to the ultimate force of healing received with the giving of the Torah on Shavuot – this year, the day after Shabbat Bamidbar.
The portion describes in detail the arrangement of the twelve tribes in four camps around the sanctuary. Specifically, each tribe had a banner and were camped around the Tabernacle in the east, south, west and north – in four groups of three. When the nation traveled in the desert, they also marched in similar formation. We learn here the importance and power of order. The entire Torah is based on order with exact precision – a split second divides Shabbat from the weekday, a tiny amount determines if something is kosher or not and a small measure separates the camps of the Levis and Kohanim. Similarly, in our day-to-day lives, we must have order to move forward effectively. Order in our business, order in our homes and order to our thoughts. By having order, similar to the precise order in which the tribes were arranged, we can achieve a sense of internal unity and empowerment – allowing us to climb to a higher spiritual plane and improve all aspects of our lives.