How do we know when the right time to do something has come?
How do we know that the conditions are given to make a decision and that it will be successful?
In general, a strategist, whichever his nature, tries to visualize a map of the place or of the situation and execute his plan. The ability to find the right moment for the right decision in the right field is often what makes the difference between success and failure.
The Creator's plan for the giving of the Torah was clearly calculated. He was educating a people who did not know Him. He was showing them His power, His kindness and also His anger. He prepared a monumental and colorful setting, so that the delivery of the most precious value would remain in the descriptive memory of each one of the members of the People of Israel. Even after so many fights and controversies during the exit from Egypt and even with the mistrust and doubts of a lawless people, the Torah tells us that the people gathered at the foot of Har Sinai, Mount Sinai, in the following way: “And they journeyed from Rephidim, came to the wilderness of Sinai, camped in the wilderness and there Israel encamped opposite the mount.” (Shemot 19:2)
All the verbs of the passuk, of the verse, are in plural, except for the last one: “encamped.” They traveled as families during the crossing, but at the moment of settling down to receive the law, according to the Midrash, they did so together, as one. With only one expectant heart before the enormous commitment and dedication that receiving the Torah implied.
The Midrash also says that the arrangement in the camp was not accidental. The tribes were besieged in the same order in which the sons of Jacob surrounded their father's deathbed, to receive his last blessings. In the middle of the people, like a careful and protective father, was the Mishkan, the tabernacle, where the law that would be delivered would be placed.
Beyond the disposition of each of the tribes, the important thing was that the center of the camp was in the Torah. THAT was what they put as the center of the people—and it was that, specifically, which made them a people. It was the foundation and what summoned them and transformed them from mere individuals or families into a collective unit.
This provision is the one that is repeated in Parashat Bemidbar for the third census since the departure from Egypt. The first was, precisely, when leaving. The second, after the loss of lives because of the episode of the Golden Calf and the third, now, in Parashat Bemidbar. The census didn't just count people. It was a way of taking into account as individual beings each and every one, in the conformation of this people. As necessary and essential people for war, for growth, for decision-making, to unite or to divide.
It is exactly “Bemidbar”, in the middle of that desert, where Moshe receives the mandate to carry out a census, to count the members of each tribe before continuing the journey.
The chiefs of the tribes execute the census according to the identity of each person and the role that they will have in the destiny of the people. And they do this with every member of their tribes.
The children of Israel are thus numbered and named in their entirety.
Why are the names we bear important? Do they truly correspond to ourselves?
In general, a name is necessary for the identification of a character, the evocation of his memory, the knowledge of his ancestry and his origin. And in our tradition and in the Torah story, the names are so important that a small letter changes them, as in the case of Abram and Sarai, who became Abraham and Sarah, adding all their commitment and legacy to the people that would be born and would grow with the only addition of the letter He.
Or Yaacov, renamed Israel, demonstrating in this change that improvement is possible at any age to straighten that crooked something that each one of us could have in our ways or in our relationship with the world around us. And also so that those around understand that there should be no eternal condemnation among human beings towards someone, if there is a change for the better in that person. We should not have the moral authority or power to condemn others.
We are hours away from preparing for Zman Matan Torateinu. The moment of the giving of the Torah, which is actually the moment when we get ready to RECEIVE the Torah. And for this we must count each one of us as committed members of our Community. Attentive to our own needs and those of others and the common good of all. Learning to leave our individualities aside when it is necessary to do so, our fears or resentments towards other members of the Community, understanding that the transcendent must be at the center of our objectives and that this center is occupied by our bases, represented in the Torah and our traditions and ethical values.
Just as the Mishkan transformed “persons” into a people, it is the values that should constitute us in an extended family that integrates different ideas and ways of thinking. May personal attitudes not cloud the common good and objectives. May we put the accent on community work and not on places of power and personal prevalence.
May we come to another Chag haShavuot in the highest of spirits and with hearts open to receive... but, above all, to give.