The beginning of a Bible Book should be extra special. And I think it is.
Midbar is an interesting word. The last letter is Reish which means Rosh — the beginning. Add the Letter Beit, you get Bar, meaning the wild. Add the Letter Dalled, you get D’var, meaning thing/word. Add the Mem, you get Midbar or M’daber (speaker). Midbar is a desert, a place where there’s no-thing/no-one, no word (A human is Creation’s M’daber, speaker), silence.
No-thing and no-sound we already meet after the first word of the Torah. In-the-Beginning-of [space]. When you look at a Torah scroll, you see a space, so what is written is: In the Beginning of Space. When it is read, you hear: At the Beginning of Silence. At the beginning, it was like a desert. In the desert, it was like a new beginning, a clean slate.
Taking us out of Egypt, He returns us to the beginning of Time. There, it was so still that you could hear G^d’s Voice and see His Presence. So, we came away with His Word (the Torah) and His Holy Abode (Tabernacle).
While we are counting the days (the Omer counting) to re-receive His Torah, our Weekly Portion recounts how G^d re-counts us. The Hebrew idiom for census-taking is to ‘lift head.’ Every Jew here counted on Rosh Chodesh lifts up our head, our beginning, Abraham — does him proud.
B’midbar Sinai is meant to contrast with B’har Sinai (Leviticus 25:1). The latter signifies that all our understanding and knowledge already comes from the Revelation ‘at Sinai’ — just like creating Heaven and Earth was one Divine deed on one day (Rashi on Genesis 2:4), unfolding over time — but things did happen after that in the wilderness.
The contrast also exists in our attitude. The time of the receiving of the Torah by Moses, the Ten Commandments by everyone as a summary, and the Stone Tables as their physical representation was one of: You’ll just tell us what to do and we will follow up, even before we fully comprehend it (Exodus 19:8, 24:3, 24:7). But the time in the wilderness was to become more: G^d orders, people (men) revolt, and G^d persist, in 40 years, cleansing us of this rebellious streak against G^d and just leadership.
Shamor vezachor b’dibur echad – He kept and remembered in one speech. That’s how L’chah Dodi expresses that for G^d, safekeeping (Exodus 20:8) and remembering to celebrate (Deuteronomy 5:12) the Shabbat are one thing/speech. Just like most Jews in Israel use one Benediction for the arm ((in)action) and the head (remembering) Phylacteries. Just like we light two candles for Shabbat, one in honor of keeping and on opposite remeberance, with making one Benediction and mentioning one candle.
Chodesh tov, have a great month.