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Tents set up in the desert , facing each other surrounded by mountains

Parashat Bamidbar: Jewish Unity

Parashat Bamidbar: Jewish Unity

Amital, Rabbi Yehuda
June 4, 2024

The Torah describes the rules for the Israelites’ encampment in the wilderness in a detailed manner to show that the Divine presence only rests upon the people when fulfilling every detail of Hashem’s instructions. In addition, the description teaches us that the Ark, situated centrally in the middle of the camp, was meant to unify all of the tribes. The same is true about Jerusalem, and this is why we celebrate Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day), the day that the Old City of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount were liberated by Israel in 1967.        

Details of the Encampment

In Parashat Bamidbar (chapters 1 & 2), the Torah relates in great detail the manner in which Benei Yisrael camped in the desert. Why is it necessary for us to be made aware of these details, especially seeing that they were applicable only to the Generation of the Wilderness?… 

The Gerrer Rebbe, author of Chiddushei Ha-Rim… explains: Benei Yisrael… encamped in order to allow the Divine Presence to dwell in their midst… Man cannot rely on his own limited understanding to devise the means that will cause God to dwell within the camp. It is only by carrying out every minute detail, as prescribed by the Torah, that man can come closer to his Maker.

Unity Around the Ark 

There is… a further lesson to be learned. Although Benei Yisrael consisted of twelve… separate entities who camped apart, they were held together by the magnetic force of the mishkan… the Ark of the Covenant, served as a focal point around which the entire nation revolved. This is clearly evident in the formation in which they camped, surrounding on four sides the centerpiece of the Ohel Moed.

…it was vital that they understand and master the skill of functioning as a nation. They were to be a diverse people, unified by a common loyalty to the principle represented by the Ark. This would lead to the dwelling of the Divine Presence amongst Am Yisrael.

Jerusalem: The Unifying Force

…Even today, Jerusalem serves as the heart of the modern Jewish nation. We face her while offering our prayers heavenward thrice daily and beg that she be rebuilt… Jerusalem bonds a nation fragmented and divided, and within it can be heard the rallying cry of religious and non-religious alike… 

On Yom Yerushalayim, we should appreciate the message that the city brings to our nation… 

Yom Yerushalayim is not a national holiday. It is a religious holiday that should serve to enhance the spiritual aspect of Am Yisrael, and it should be celebrated in a fashion appropriate to its innate holiness


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