Parashat Bamidbar occurs in the second year of the Israelites walking in the desert.
It seems like the desert has a special meaning in the process of the Israeli nation being formed. The people of Israel had been an enslaved nation in Egypt for 210 years. During this time, the people had lost their general and personal identity, as we can see from their reaction when Moshe brought the news of leaving Egypt and being redeemed from slavery. They were slaves, and that was all they knew how to be.
The people then begin to walk through the desert towards the Promised Land. Not much lives in the desert; no plants, no water, and not many animals. In this deserted environment, God wanted His people to become a nation, and apparently there was a fixed plan for that to happen.
If we examine the word ‘desert’, which in English has connotations of “abandonment” and “neglect”, the Hebrew word can teach us something about the nature of the place:
has exactly the same letters as the word:
Apparently, as the Hebrew language “teaches” us, the desert has something to say. It speaks to the people in it.
In a place with no distractions, one’s identity can grow, and can go through the process of become as complete as possible.