וידבר ה' אל משה במדבר סיני באהל מועד באחד לחודש השני בשנה השנית לצאתם מארץ מצרים לאמר.
“And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert in the Sanctuary on the first of the second month, during the second year after they left the land of Egypt.” (Bamidbar 1:1)
Why does the Torah specify where Hashem spoke to Moshe? What difference does it make in which desert this message was given?
The Rebbe of Kasan zt”l, known as the Or Malei, once visited the city of Satmar and was hosted by one of his faithful Chassidim, Reb Yitzchak Turnauer. The Satmar Rebbe zt”l came to the home of Reb Yitzchak to meet with the Kasaner Rebbe. The two great men conversed in Torah for a while, after which the Kasaner Rebbe walked his guest out of the house. Instead of walking him for a short distance as is customary, he walked him all the way to the Satmar Rebbe’s home, and in fact stayed for a return visit. On his way back to his lodgings with his host, the Kasaner Rebbe said to Reb Yitzchak: “You have the Satmar Rebbe all year, but you’ve been privileged to have him visit your home only because you are hosting me now.”
The holy Tanya teaches that a person who studies Torah is elevated to an exalted level of greatness. He becomes likened to a person who is in the embrace of the King and he shares a special intimate bond with Hashem. The Torah is the wisdom of Hashem; Hashem cloaked Himself, so to speak, with the letters of the Torah. Therefore, a person who occupies his mind with words of Torah is connecting with Hashem and is compared to someone who embraces Hashem.
The Kasaner Rebbe told Reb Yitzchok that although the Satmar Rebbe’s greatness fills the entire city, it is not the same as having the Rebbe visit his home. Likewise, Hashem’s glory fills the entire world, but a person who studies Torah has the privilege of bonding with Hashem in a special way; in essence, it’s as if Hashem is visiting inside the person.
Some might ask: Why do we need the Torah to create this bond? Every Jewish soul is a spark of Hashem and is already intimately connected with Him. In truth, this is indeed the case. Every Jew is essentially connected to Hashem. However, it is sometimes difficult to feel this bond and remember this special connection. When a person studies Torah, this bond is greatly strengthened to the point where the person can actually feel it all the time.
In this sidra, Hashem came to rest His Shechina among the Jewish people. The verse is making special mention that this took place in the Sinai Desert. Although the desert is a long stretch of wilderness, and it seems incongruous to be the place where Hashem’s Presence will rest, since the Torah was given at that place, the entire area became worthy of being visited by the Divine Presence.
The verse is teaching us that if we study Torah, we can become worthy of having the Divine Presence visit us and rest within us. We can be elevated to a very great level and experience a strong intimate bond with Hashem, even being compared to someone who embraces Hashem, so to speak. All this can take place even if we are like a wilderness, and we are empty and barren of worthy deeds. True, we may be like a desert, but if we are like the Sinai Desert because of the Torah we are learning, we can still be worthy of this special greatness.
Learning Torah makes a person great. It elevates him completely and brings him closer to Hashem.