By HaRav Dov Began
Rosh HaYeshiva, Machon Meir
“The Israelites shall camp with each person near the banner having his paternal family’s insignia” (Numbers 2:2).
The Israelites were arranged around the Tabernacle, each by his banner. Each banner had its own color, and the color of one was unlike the color of another. The color of each was like the one on the breastplate stones (Rashi).
Each person recognized his own banner and each person recognized his own place and his own task in the general setup of all the tribes of Israel together. At the heart of all the tribes was the king’s legion. This refers to the kohanim and levi’im who served in the Tabernacle and in the Temple, may it be rebuilt speedily in our day.
To what can this be compared? To a person with limbs that are different from one another, but which complement one another. In the center of the body, the heart and mind are the most vital limbs, providing the whole body with life. Through them, the body’s purpose is revealed.
In the same way, each tribe of Israel stands at its banner and place. Each one has a role in the national tapestry. Together with this, we must remember constantly that the Jewish People as well possess a heart and mind, namely, Jerusalem and the Temple. There, the King’s legions serve, referring to the priests who see the King’s countenance and bestow of their spirit upon the whole nation and the whole world, through their holy service.
Today, we have finally come home. We are living at the height of a remarkable period of ingathering of the exiles, and the nation’s renewed progress in Eretz Yisrael. This comes after thousands of years, during which "we were like dry bones" (Ezekiel 37). The headline story of our generation is our return to Jerusalem, the eternal city, heart and light of the world.
Yet the work is not done. We must strengthen ourselves and unite together as one man, to defend Jerusalem and to continue rebuilding it, just as during the times of Ezra and Nechemiah the enemies of Israel were unable to resign themselves to the rebuilding of Jerusalem. We thus had to defend it simultaneously with building it: “So we labored at the work. Half of them held the spears from dawn till nightfall.... so that at night they could be a guard to us, and labor by day” (Nechemiah 4:15,16).
May G-d, who “comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem,” come to our aid.
Rejoicing with Jerusalem and looking forward to salvation,
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Jerusalem Day.