As we begin the 4th of the 5 books in the Torah, we not-so-coincidentally also prepare for Shavuos three days later. The Book of “Bamidbar” always immediately precedes the holiday- but what is the connection? In a simple sense, we can see a connection in the name itself. “Bamidbar” means “In the desert”, and the rabbis explain that it is one of three items needed to truly receive the Torah on Shavuos.
‘Being a desert’ refers to being free of any preconceived notions when one approaches their study of Torah. Its ideas are many times different from how we may see the world, and that shouldn’t cloud our judgement. The other two elements to receive the Torah are fire and water. Fire is an item that always rises, goes higher. Water, conversely, always travels to the lowest point. Water represents humility, recognizing our lowliness relative to G-d. But then what does fire represent? Shouldn’t we stay low, not high? To answer that, let us take a loot at a common story about Har Sinai, the place we received the Torah.
We may be familiar with how Sinai was chosen; because it was a small mountain, relative to the others. It represented humility among the other mountains who were “haughty”, like the water. One could ask, however, why was Sinai a mountain at all? Wouldn’t humility be best expressed through a valley? Mountains, like fire, seem haughty!
Some explain that the reason Mount Sinai was still a mountain is to show that despite having humility one must still know their own value. Having confidence in who you are is also a vital characteristic to approach the Torah. We shouldn’t feel bashful to engage with it, but we also should not boast because of it. To accept the Torah this Shavuos, let us stay humble but let that not make us seem insignificant in our own eyes. We may relate to others humbly, but inside, we must keep in mind that we’re still a mountain.