Desert Journeys

The name Bamidbar means “in the desert.” This name was chosen because the book begins with a command related by G‑d to Moshe “in the desert.” Similarly, it is in that locale that all the other narratives described in the book take place.

Bamidbar is also called Sefer HaPikudim, “the book of Numbers,” for it describes several of the censuses taken of the Jewish people. The Rebbe explains that a census focuses on the fundamental point of the soul, the dimension of our being which is “an actual part of G‑d.”1 On this level, all Jews are counted equally; no one is given greater importance than another. Taking a census activates that potential, stirring it into expression.

It is through the expression of this potential that we — as a people and as individuals — can weather the challenges of the journey through “the desert,” a place unfit for human habitation. A desert lacks water, an metaphor for the Torah. But because the essence of the Jewish soul transcends the Torah, it can bring life to such an arid place, and indeed, bring water, Torah, to it.

The Jews’ journey through the desert is employed as an allusion for our people’s struggles in exile. And in this context, the same concept also applies: the challenges of the exile can be overcome by stirring the essence of the Jewish soul.

This highlights the importance of studying Likkutei Sichos. The teachings it contains are not merely interesting ideas explaining the weekly Torah readings. They are that — but most fundamentally, they are the Rebbe’s teachings.

In person, the Rebbe was able — and continues — to ignite the essential Jewish connection which every Jew possesses. When a Jew came to the Rebbe, he came away inspired. He didn’t necessarily understand why, but a soul connection was created, and this motivated him to greater Jewish expression.

This applies also to the Rebbe’s teachings. The Rebbe invested himself in his work, and his teachings reach to a Jew’s core and stir its expression.

A Unified Camp

When traveling through a desert, unity is of fundamental importance. A person must learn to view a colleague, not as a rival, but as a resource and a partner. This perspective was certainly relevant in the composition of this text, for it fused together the efforts of many different contributors.

The full list of all those who contributed is too long to mention, but notice should be made of the following: Eliyahu Touger who was responsible for the translation, Gershom Gale who did the editing, Rabbi Aharon Leib Raskin who annotated the sources and checked the authenticity of the translation, Yosef Yitzchok Turner who provided the layout and topography, Uri Kaploun who was always available for counsel and guidance, and Rabbi Yonah Avtzon, Director of Sichos In English, who supervised every phase of the project’s development.

Eyes to the Horizon

A journey through a desert is not a pleasure gaunt. It is a mission with a purpose. Otherwise, it would simply not be worth it. The Jews passed through the desert to enter Eretz Yisrael, and our journey through the desert of exile is intended to bring us to the heights of the Redemption.

In this vein, the teachings of the Rebbe are also significant, for they are a foretaste of the teachings of Mashiach and enable us to anticipate and precipitate the coming of that future era.

May the study of the Rebbe’s teachings encourage us all to take our part in shouldering the mission of spiritual purpose which the Rebbe taught. And may this in turn lead to overtly apparent good and blessing, including the ultimate blessing, the coming of the Redemption, and the fulfillment of the prophecy,2 “And those who repose in the dust will arise and sing,” with the Rebbe at our head.

Sichos In English

Rosh Chodesh Kislev, 5757