Friday, May 26, 2006

Parshas Bamidbar

Sefer Bamidbar opens with the organizing of the Jewish people into Machanos, camps. Four camps were organized with tribes of similar natures grouped together. The midrashim tell how each camp had its own flag and color scheme and in fact, almost their own culture.

What was the purpose for this restructuring? Some commentators suggest that the benefits of dividing into camps appeared to be based both on functionality and military/security concerns. Arranging all the tradesmen together, for example, would allow the optimal amount of development in that field. Also, as a defensive strategy, organizing into groups would allow them to best protect the weaker tribes and prevent a more severe massacre should they be attacked.

R' Yaakov Kaminetsky, in his Emes L'Yaakov, asks: if there was a utility for having the camps arranged as such, why did they wait until now to do it if the benefits could be reaped now? They had already been out of Mitzrayim for 2 years! Moshe should've stratified after the exiting of Mitzrayim, or by the splitting of the sea - why the wait?

Answers R' Yaakov - splitting the nation into groups with their own flag and cultures inevitably bred a bit of strife and plants tiny seeds of rift between the groups. Sure, they're still Am Yisrael, fighting for the same goal, but divisions inevitably lead to, at least, a small amout of dissention. This potential strife would be a detriment to keeping Klal Yisroel a Klal of Achdus, and probably, a klal at all. Chronologically, at this time, they were just finishing up the building of the Mishkan - the ultimate tool for establishing Avodas Hashem. The Jews had to wait before dividing so that they could lay the foundation for Avodas Hashem and Ahavas Hashem - tools, that if not in hand, would lead to the aforementioned strife and dissention. Only when the foundation was layed by the Mishkan was the Klal strong enough to stratify. Had they divided immeditely after Yetzias Mitzrayim, there would've been benefits to Am Yisrael; it's just that the detriments would've been more than any potential benefit.

The practical applications of this are far reaching. When we construct a building we first need a very strong foundation. If you try to build on something without a foundation or with a weak one, it will only be a matter of time before your building will come crashing to the ground. The same should be said by many things in life. Obviously, when becoming frum (or frummer), there is a step-by-step procedure that should be followed to make sure that each new thing taken on is being built on a strong religious foundation. Before getting married, one needs to make sure that the foundations in themselves are fortified before trying to give to another. Marriage doesn't build these foundations for you - it is only the next step after establishing yourself. Next, before going into the work world it makes sense to have that college experience not only knowing the material relevent to that field, but also, of knowing who you are.

Most things we deal with in life are cumulative - they build on something that has been done before. If we ignore what has happened previous and refuse to use life experiences to build our foundations, our buildings that we will try to build along the road will crash. Life's a long process - just take it one step at a time.

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