Sefer Bamidbar begins with God communicating with Moses in the Sinai wilderness. Interestingly, Moses first encounter with God was in the wilderness when God first appeared before Moses in the burning bush. It appears as though man’s biblical encounter with God is typically in the wilderness.
Ironically too, the spiritual growth of the Hebrews is manifest and developed in the desert, a wilderness of harsh climate, little nutrition and a place where man can find despair or God. It is also the story of our questionable commitment to a monotheistic faith, at times committed to the message of Moses but at other times in search of an alternative which will places the Hebrews in a comfort zone.
The ambivalence experienced in the desert can be understood metaphorically as our own quest for truth and clarity. Until each of us experiences his own personal revelation he is in the desert in search. Each of us is alone and in search, and by carefully listening to our conscience, to the “small voice” within each of us will we arrive at clarity.
This clarity unfortunately and in most cases is illusive as it was with the Hebrews in the wilderness. Even after the revelations and miraculous wonders, it didn’t take much until the Hebrews reverted to the comfort zone demanding less spiritual investment.
Bamidbar challenges us to understand the condition of man. Man at his most sensitive moments is in the dessert, emotionally fragile and secluded, disconnected with everything but his own feelings and conscience, in search of truth. The tension of needing to be in the desert but at the same time wanting to arrive at the promised land is the ever present polar tension and the condition of man in search.