Parshas Bamidbar 2018: Focal Point
“The Tent of Meeting shall travel along with the camp of the Levites in the midst of the camps.” (Bamidbar 2:17)
After the Jewish people experienced the revelation at Mount Sinai where they received the Torah and became a people with a purpose, they then travelled through the desert towards the promised land of Israel (then known as “Canaan”). As you can imagine travelling with an entire nation of people was a huge endeavor we know there were 600,000 men at Har Sinai, men between twenty and sixty years of age not including women. To keep things in order Hashem had Moshe organize the people into twelve sections corresponding to their tribe.
The formation of the people had everyone surrounding the tribe of Levi (some say in a circular shape others say in a square shape) where the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was set up and where the Torah was kept. This made the Torah the focal point of not only the nation’s spirituality but of their physical encampment as well.
The Torah was supposed to be positioned in the middle of everyone not closer to one camp than another.
The Chafetz Chaim points out we also saw this in the Garden of Eden. The Tree of Life too, was positioned in the middle of the garden as the pasuk says, “...in the midst of the Garden.” To which the Targum translates to “in the middle of the Garden”. The Torah is referred as the “Tree of Life” (Mishlei) and here too, we see the Tree of Life in the center.
Moreover when the Torah is taken out and read from in the shul it’s placed on the bimah which is generally in the center of the shul -equidistant from every congregant.
The purpose should be quite clear.
It’s the same intention when a city builds their city hall, police and fire departments smack in the middle, so that it’s easily accessible from every point. If the fire department would be all the way in the west end of a city the people in the east would obviously be disadvantaged in a crisis.
It doesn’t matter where a person lives -the Torah is easy to reach. Hashem gave the Torah to the entire B’nai Yisrael (Children of Israel) and everyone has the privilege and obligation to seek out the Torah, to learn it, and to live on a higher level with it.
A person should know that study of the Torah is the primary responsibility of a Jew and should remain as the centerpiece for the Jewish people at all times.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!
Maverick V. Peters