Who Cares Which Side? – Parshat Bamidbar
Sometimes the Torah really surprises me. There are times where the Torah details certain stories or commandments. Sometimes it doesn’t. The basic principle though is that the Torah doesn’t waste words.
So, why does the Torah spend time telling us in this week's parsha, Parshat Bamidbar, where each tribe camped and later on in what order they travelled.1 Is this information that will have a positive impact on generations to come? And who really cares whether they camped on the north or the west (aside from trivia buffs that is)? When you go to a baseball game, is there really a difference if you sit on the third base side or the first base side? And that question in some way leads us towards the answer. It doesn’t make a difference as long as you are equidistant from the playing field. But it does make a difference if you have front row seats or sit in the bleachers.
The great 15th century sage and statesman, Abarbanel, says that the order in itself isn’t as important as the fact that all the tribes will be equidistant from the spiritual center of the nation – the Tabernacle.2 In order to do that, everyone needed "assigned campsites". Everyone then would have the same availability to that center. How they decide to utilize that closeness is up to them – but everyone has the same chance.
Meaning is ever present in every situation that we encounter.3 How we decide to move in relation to it is our choice. We can move towards it, we can ignore it or we can distance ourselves from it.
We are spiritual beings though we need external trappings at times. Placing us equidistant from the spiritual center is a way to help us and to make us aware of our surroundings. It also allows us to be more aware of the resources we have available to us.
Which side? That apparently doesn’t make much of a difference. How we use our proximity does.
1. Bamidbar Chapters 2, 10
2. Ibid. 2:2
3. Dr. Viktor Frankl
Have A Great Shabbat!