By: Alexa Szafranski
This week, we begin the fourth book of the Torah with Parshat and Sefer Bamidbar. This book is also known as Sefer HePekudim, because this is when the Jewish people were counted in a census.
Towards the beginning of this Parsha, it is mentioned how when traveling in the desert, the Jews would move in a specific formation since the second year after leaving Egypt. The twelve Shvatim were each divided into groups of three, with each tribe stationed in a certain direction with a flag that identified them. One question asked about this is: why was Bnei Yisrael only traveling in this formation two years after Yetziat Mitzrayim and not right after?
A flag is a symbol of a people’s nationality. If each tribe would have had their own flag right after leaving Egypt, there may have been a riff between the Shvatim and this could have divided the budding nation. When a country goes to war, they raise their flag high, and Hashem did not want the Jewish people to segregate into warring peoples. So, the tribes were only split and given their flag when they had the unifying goal in the center of the camp- the Mishkan. Once the Mishkan was there to band the Shvatim all together- which symbolized Hashem’s love for us and our acceptance of the Torah- we were molded into one nation.
Once the Jews were unified into one from the Mishkan, having individual tribal wars would not cause any trouble, but conversely it would turn us into one more unified and efficient nation. Each tribe had their own mission for Hashem- and their own flag to symbolize that- and the tribes segregated in their mission in order to enable a more unified nation. This lesson is so prevalent, of sometimes submitting to the greater good, and can teach us how an effectively divided group can truly achieve any goal once they are unified.