Bamidbar is always read on the Shabbat before Shavuot.
When we think of the prelude to the giving of the Torah, we have a picture of Bnei Yisrael, in the ‘Midbar’, the wilderness, waiting. And now, in this, the fourth ‘Book’ of the Torah we are again in the ‘Midbar’. Midbar means wilderness – but the same letters also spell Medaber – ‘speaking’.
Thus we have an intrinsic connection between the wilderness and speaking – in this case, the voice of HaShem.
Rabbi Lord Sacks comments: “The desert is a place of silence. There is nothing visually to distract you, and there is no ambient noise to muffle sound. To be sure, when the Israelites received the Torah, there was thunder and lightening and the sound of a shofar. The earth felt as if it were shaking at its foundations. But in a later age, when the prophet Elijah stood at the same mountain after his confrontation with the prophets of Baal, he encountered God not in the whirlwind or the fire or the earthquake but in the kol demamah dakah, the still, small voice, literally ‘the sound of a slender silence.’ I define this as the sound you can only hear if you are listening. In the silence of the midbar, the desert, you can hear the Medaber, the Speaker, and the medubar, that which is spoken. To hear the voice of God you need a listening silence in the soul.”
Often we are too distracted to really listen and to hear ‘the voice of God’. Shabbat, followed immediately by Shavuot, give us the space and time to switch off, to enter into the spirit of the Midbar and to intensify our listening.
Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach