Rabbi Yonah Burr
Bemidbar: Part of Something Greater
This week’s Parsha is all about accounting for every Jew, identifying which tribe he belongs to, and arranging the tribes according to their proper configurations.
כל מי שאינו עושה עצמו כמדבר הפקר אינו יכול לקנות את החכמה והתורה לכך נאמר במדבר סיני
במדבר רבה (א,ז)
The Medrash at the beginning of this weeks parsha tells us that anyone who does not nullify himself like a midbar, a desert, cannot acquire wisdom and Torah. That is why we refer to the desert as ‘Midbar Sinai’ – the desert of Mount Sinai.
Rav Schwab zt”l asks an interesting question. When Hashem instructs Moshe to count the Jewish People, He summons the tribal leaders to aid in the census. Hashem says, "ואלה שמות האנשים אשר יעמדו אתכם", “These are the names of the men who should stand with you”. Why does the Torah refer to them as simply ‘men’, and name them as if we never met them before? Why, these are the Princes of Israel who take care of their individual tribes, and who were very instrumental in dedicated the Mishkan that took place just a few weeks earlier?
Rav Schwab explains that Hashem is teaching us an important lesson. Yes, you are the leaders of the Jewish People, but you should not let it go to your head. Remember that you are mere men, who are merely appointed to serve. Your entire importance is measured solely by how well you view yourselves as servants of your tribes, to account for, and help arrange their individual talents and strengths.
Working together, looking beyond ourselves, and complementing the strengths of one another is the way we will be successful; and only this way will we merit surrounding and being close to the Mishkan and Shechina.
This is why we needed to be considered כאיש אחד ולב אחד like one unit, with a single heart, when we accepted the Torah, for only if we nullify our own egos and break down the barriers that divide us will be able to fulfill the entire Torah together.
As Shavuos approaches, the time is again ripe to rededicate ourselves, and accept the Torah anew. May we all merit to collectively and collaboratively reach our full potential in our service of Hashem!