The parshah of Bamidbar is always read before Shavuot, the day the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai.

What is the connection between Bamidbar and Shavuot?

Regarding the days leading up to receiving the Torah, the Talmud tells us: “On the second of Sivan, Moses ascended the mountain . . . On the third day he ascended . . . On the fourth day he ascended . . . On the fifth of Sivan he built an altar and offered a sacrifice.”

It is obvious that G‑d gave the command to build the altar and bring a sacrifice. But why did Moses have to busy himself with building the altar, moving stones and constructing it? Couldn’t it have been done by others? Wasn’t this the day before receiving the Torah? Wouldn’t his time be better spent ascending the mountain, reaching new spiritual heights?

We must conclude that building the altar was something that only Moses could have done, and that it was more important than ascending the mountain.

The day before every Shabbat and Yom Tov is called erev Shabbat or erev Yom Tov. It is the time we prepare for the Sabbath and/or other Jewish holiday. But more than that, it is a time that a ray of holiness of the upcoming holy day is already shining, and is therefore part of the upcoming holy day, which in our case is Shavuot.

The essence of Shavuot is that G‑d Himself descended onto Mount Sinai—a move that was unheard of. Yes, there were times when G‑d appeared to our forefathers. But those were visions of an expression of His, not essence. G‑d Himself descending on the physical mountain is what the Torah is all about, and it is at the core of our mission as Jews: to take this physical, mundane world and infuse it with G‑dliness, uplifting the mundane to make it holy. We do this through performing mitzvahs with physical objects, and by using our day-to-day activities to aid us in our service to G‑d, thereby turning our most physical, mundane and rudimentary actions into holy endeavors.

This is also the reason why G‑d didn’t bring us up into the spiritual realms to give us the Torah. Rather, He chose to do it in the physical world on a mountain. This demonstrates that our interaction with the physical is most important.

Erev Shavuot, the fifth of Sivan, was already part of the Shavuot dynamic. The command to build the altar and bring a sacrifice was part of the giving of the Torah. Every part of this was done with and through Moses. He had the special soul—one that could actualize the process of receiving and implementing the Torah, G‑d’s will. Each of us has a part of Moses in our souls, which gives us a boost of strength to do our mission, to uplift the physical world, making it into a place where G‑d’s presence can dwell openly.

Building the altar was a clear demonstration. He took stones, which are physical and mundane, and made it into a holy altar. Offering a sacrifice—an animal that is also physical and mundane—completed the altar because now it was actually used for its holy purpose.

Bamidbar means “in the desert.” The Torah was given to us in a desert, where nothing grows and no one lives. Why? Because it is symbolic of the lowest level of the physical and mundane. This shows us that we can and should infuse even that with holiness.

With this understanding, all of us said: “We will do and we will listen.” By first saying “we will do,” we confirmed that we understood that our purpose was to interact with the physical and raise it up.

Shavuot and Bamidbar convey the same message: That we can change the world and make it a dwelling place for G‑d’s presence, which we will witness at the conclusion of our mission with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon!