At first sight, the beginning of the Torah reading of Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) seems to concern something which was only relevant in the ancient past. It describes the tasks of the Levites during the period of traveling in the desert. Before each journey the Sanctuary would be dismantled by the Levites and then they would transport its various sections: the curtains, beams of cedar wood, and so on, until they reached the next stopping place. Then they would again set up the Sanctuary, while the rest of the Jewish people pitched their camp around it.

It is interesting to think that for thousands of years we have been reading again and again the account of this journey in the wilderness. This helps us understand our own task in life.

The Sages tell us that the purpose of creation is that G‑d should be revealed and "dwell" in this physical world. But this idea contains a difficulty.

The idea that G‑d is revealed in a higher, spiritual world, in Heaven, is not difficult. A spiritual realm is by definition transparent to G‑dliness. It shines with G‑d's holy radiance. But the statement that G‑d should be revealed in the physical world in which we live is quite strange. For a start, our world seems to be opaque to G‑dliness. Many people live in the world and do not think about G‑d at all. Unfortunate or tragic things sometimes take place, and a person might wonder: why did G‑d let this happen? All this means that in our world, G‑d is usually hidden.

The purpose of Creation is that instead of being hidden, G‑d should be revealed: here in this physical world, a world not of angels but of human beings, cars, shops and computers.

Now, let us go a step further. In order for G‑d to be revealed in our world, something has to happen first. The world has to be changed in some subtle way, so that instead of hiding G‑d it will reveal Him.

Who has to achieve this change in existence? Yes, you have guessed right. We, the Jewish people, have to change the world. We have to prepare it so that it will be a "dwelling" for G‑d.

The Sages tell us that this is the inner story of the Torah, all the way through. The Torah describes how we get into very difficult situations and then, by living through those situations in a Jewish way, we actually have an effect on existence as a whole. This was the meaning in our slavery in Egypt; it is also the significance of the long journey through the desert.

Traveling through the empty desert, and setting up the Sanctuary at every place where we stopped, was a way of preparing the world as a whole to receive the ultimate Sanctuary, the Temple in Jerusalem. Now, thousands of years later, our journey through the world during our long exile, setting up Jewish homes in Israel, Britain, the USA, Australia and Hong Kong and everywhere else where Jews might be, is preparing the world so that not just Jerusalem but the whole world will be filled with the Glory of G‑d.

How do we prepare the world? By keeping the mitzvot, including Torah study and prayer, wherever we might be. This includes a little Spanish village where we may soon be going on holiday! Wherever we are, and every moment, we achieve the transformation of the world so that G‑dliness can be revealed in every aspect of life for everyone, fulfilling the purpose of creation.1