"The children of Israel shall encamp, each man by his own camp"
Unity! It's the holy grail of politicians, wherever they may be found. Prime Minister Netanyahu has returned to Israel from his triumphantly received speech before Congress, saying, as ever, "Now is the time for unity!"
Politicians love polls and commission them on a regular basis. The polls that prove flattering they publish and those that prove otherwise, they stifle. Far too often they view their polls, not as a gage of whether the public is following their lead, but as a type of oracle, expressing what the public wants and how they can shape their policy to best reflect the myriad interests of the population. Of course, this isn't leadership, but "followship." It is all too evident that in the vast majority of the world's most distinguished democracies, the elected officials, that is, the public servants, are not serving the public through their leadership, but doing the public a disservice. By formulating policies not based on the real interests of their respective nations, but rather on narrow party interests, media-pandering, cronyism and corruption, today's politicians time and time again set themselves up for failure, all the while disappointing they very citizens who first empowered them to do what they believe is right for the nation.
Prime Minister Netanyahu's superbly crafted and splendidly delivered speech before Congress received well deserved ovations and acclamations. Yet, despite the inspiring oratory, the prime minister and his advisers made certain to include enough contradictory elements designed to both please and provoke Netanyahu's domestic supporters and detractors, as well as the president of the United States, the Congress, the American public, and the European nations. By provoking as well as pleasing, the prime minister is able to strengthen and stabilize his political position at home. If he raises the ire of those who understand the land of Israel to be the home of the people of Israel, (which he did by suggesting that some Jewish communities located in the heart of Judea and Samaria may someday find themselves outside the borders of the state of Israel), while at the same time confounding the radical left whose mantra is peace at any price, he can justifiably present himself as representing the mythical "center" of public consensus.
It is precisely this forbidden admixture of Machiavellian alchemy that has kept Israel entrapped in the wilderness for so many years. The generation that left Egypt eventually, despite all the odds stacked against it, entered the land of Israel exactly forty years after divesting itself of the Egyptian servitude. It required but two generations and two leaders, Moshe, followed by Yehoshua, to bring about this revolution. The modern state of Israel has just turned sixty three, and despite all her stunning accomplishments, the ultimate promise of the promised land still remains elusive. And this is all the more remarkable when we consider that for the past forty four years the Temple Mount, home of the first, second and third Holy Temple has been a part of sovereign Israel. This one great "failure to achieve" casts a pall upon all of Israel's other manifest accomplishments. And yet, if we were only unified in our purpose, even this one great ultimate challenge - the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, and the renewal of the Divine service - we could quickly achieve. Unity. We all want it, but how do we attain it?
Moshe rabbenu - Moses our master - never asked Israel to rally around his leadership. Instead, in a moment of great national crisis, that of the golden calf, Moses declared, "Whoever is for the L-rd, let him come to me!" (Exodus 32:26) Moses didn't call for a press conference, consult with his pollsters and present a great compromise, replete with painful concessions for one and for all, and then call on all to rally around his version of the popular will. Moses called upon everyone, whatever their differences, to unite around the G-d of Israel. It was indeed painful, and a heavy price was exacted. But the result was the much sought after unity. Unity around G-d.
As we open the book of Numbers we witness that this earlier call for unity around G-d has now become the very basis of life within the Israelite encampment. A census, (not a poll), is taken and the tribes are assigned specific locations for their encampments. The final result is a large square, with three tribal encampments on each side of the square, and the Tabernacle, from which emanates the Shechinah, the Divine presence, in the very center of the square. The Levites and priests, whose work is in the Tabernacle, are encamped next to the Tabernacle.
In this formation the tribes of Israel traveled through the desert, faced their enemies and ultimately entered the land where their encampments, in time, would be replaced by their inheritances. The Israelites made the transition from defeated slaves to a fearsome fighting force. Yet there is no evidence that they ever suffered from internecine strife. We have Midrashic evidence suggesting that the tribes of Israel squabbled over who would enter the Sea of Reeds first, who would lead the way, who would "get the credit." But now that the Tabernacle, whose presence informs Israel of their higher purpose as a nation, is located squarely within its midst, there is no arguing or second-guessing as to who will encamp on the eastern flank and who will encamp on the west. All the parties occupy a place of equal proximity to the center - to the Divine presence.
Korach, the disgruntled and ambitious Levite, of whom we will read later in the book of Numbers, is the one exception which proves the rule. Korach tried to drag Moses into a frontal conflict in which each adversary would draw up sides. Moses rejected outright this blatant attempt to create a factionalized society, in which special interest would dominate and political parties would emerge. Moses, as ever, deferred to the true source of power, the true arbiter of right and wrong, to the G-d of Israel. By drawing the hearts of every individual back to the heart of the nation, the people once again rallied around Moses. Disaster was averted.
If Israel's political elite would allow for the G-d of Israel, the Torah of Israel and the land of Israel to become the central planks of their political platforms, if their true agendas were only to serve G-d and His people to the very best of their abilities, and if they were to recognize that the power of the Almighty is never lessened or curtailed by the current collection of earthy potentates, whoever they might be, they would no doubt discover and enjoy the united support of the people of Israel. Certainly this would require a type of faith and courage not currently possessed by our elected officials. But this, and nothing less, is what is necessary to take today's contemporary generation of the desert and plant them firmly and forever within the land of Israel. Any politician willing to take this task upon himself would, of course, no longer be a politician. He would be a true leader of Israel.
Tune in to this week's TEMPLE TALK as the Israelites fall into formation around the Holy Tabernacle in the opening chapters of the Book of Numbers, preparing to march into, conquer, OCCUPY and fill the land of Israel with the Torah of Israel in accordance with the will of the G-d of Israel, 4000 years later, (and simultaneously), Rabbi Chaim Richman and Yitzchak Reuven stand shoulder to shoulder defending Israel and her homeland against the brazen voodoo "peace " policies of President Barack Hussein Obama, who seeks liberty and justice for all - for all but the Jews of Israel, that is!