Unique Unity

Rabbi Shmuli Kagan

Bnei Akiva Rabbi | Bnei Akiva South Africa

They journeyed from Rephidim and arrived at the Wilderness of Sinai and encamped in the Wilderness; and Israel encamped there, opposite the mountain.

(Exodus 19:2)

וַיִּסְעוּ מֵרְפִידִים וַיָּבֹאוּ מִדְבַּר סִינַי וַיַּחֲנוּ בַּמִּדְבָּר וַיִּחַן שָׁם יִשְׂרָאֵל נֶגֶד הָהָר.

(שמות יט:ב)

This verse describes how the nation of Israel encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai ready to receive the Torah. One who looks closely at the Hebrew grammar of the verse may notice how the verse changes from using the plural verb to the singular. The verse is telling us we travelled as a collection of individuals but we finally encamped as a unified singular unit. Rashi, the medieval commentator explains that the Jews were like one person with one heart.

Nevertheless, unity in Jewish terms is not necessarily a nullification of oneself towards the community. At times one needs to sacrifice for the needs of the many, but true unity is expressed rather as giving to, than giving up. I like to view the Jewish people as a team where we each offer our own unique talents and circumstances, ultimately all benefiting from our diversity. The sum of the parts is greater than the whole.

This is portrayed by the Jewish calendar which allows for Parshat Bamidbar to be read each year the Shabbat before Shavuot. Bamidbar is the book of counting as it opens up with a census of the Jewish people. Hashem counts us to show how we are all unique and precious in his eyes.

We live and thrive as the Jewish people embodying unity through diversity. This is what makes us a fitting receptacle for the Torah. Such a people are capable of anything!

©2019 by The Office of The Chief Rabbi