Every year, the Torah portion Bamidbar, “in the desert,” is read before the holiday of Shavuos. This sequence is intentional, highlighting the fact that the Torah was given in such a barren setting.

Why did G‑d choose such surroundings? To teach several fundamental lessons:

a) A desert has no owner. By giving the Torah in the desert, G‑d showed that no one person or tribe can control it; every Jew has an equal claim.

b) To approach the Torah, we must make ourselves ownerless by stepping beyond our individual personalities. The Torah reflects G‑d’s infinity, transcending our understanding. To relate to this infinity, we must transcend our personal selves.

c) The desert is barren and desolate. Thus when our ancestors received the Torah, they had to depend on G‑d for food, water, and clothing. Yet far from worrying, they received the Torah with loving trust.

Similarly, instead of giving primacy to our material concerns, we should consider the Torah our priority, and remain confident that G‑d will provide us with our needs as He provided for our ancestors.

d) The barrenness of the desert can also be understood as a metaphor for feelings of spiritual barrenness and emptiness. Even when a person sees himself as an arid wasteland, he need not despair. For precisely in such an environment, G‑d reached out to our people and gave them the Torah.

This concept also applies in our relations with others. We can - and must - share Torah with all Jews, even those who appear as barren as a desert. Thus our Sages urge us to “be counted among the disciples of Aharon… loving [your fellow] creatures and bringing them close to the Torah.”