In the Sedra of Bamidbar the Jewish people are introduced to the concept of Flags. Chpt 2. Vs.1 ” G-d spoke to Moshe and Aaron saying each individual will camp round the Tabernacle by their flag upon which will be the device of their father’s house.”

The signs on the flags were derived from the Blessings which Yaakov gave his sons before he died. Yehudah who was compared to a young lion had a lion as the symbol on his flag. Flags are interesting things. Historians point to the willingness of people to guarantee certain slaughter on the battlefield by picking up a fallen standard. Saluting the flag is still I think, a daily ritual in American schools. Flag burning is a punishable offence in many countries. The IRA peace agreement brought the lifting of the ban on Irish flags being flown in Ulster.

The obvious question is what did the Torah want to achieve by commanding us to camp around flags? In Michtav Mi Eliyohu, Rabbi Dessler says there are three types of seder, order. There is the sort of seder you get outside Buckingham Palace where all the soldiers move precisely. They all look the same ( the Guards regiments are still selected for height and appearance ) and their exactness suggests they are superb not just in appearance but in every other aspect too. Rabbi Dessler calls this Seder for Seder’s sake. There is a second type of Seder, the type you find in a library where books have to be in the right order corresponding to the catalogue. If however one book has been left out or put in the wrong place the rest of the library still works. The third sort of Seder is like that in found under a car’s bonnet. The distributor has to be in the right place as does the alternator and the fuel pump. If one is put in the wrong place not only will it not work the entire engine fails nothing works. The Torah is saying that the Jewish people are like the last example. Each one with a unique approach; Yehudah the royal tribe, Levi the priestly one. Each individual tribe brings their own speciality to the entire Jewish people. The message of each one camping around their own flag is to broadcast this fact. Jewish unity is made up through the sum of our diversity.

The Ramban lists the qualities that were special to each tribe. Only when they are brought together is the Jewish people complete. It is obvious that there were a specific number of flags. Other flags and the ideologies they represent can’t contribute to the completeness of the Jewish nation. When Jews have tried to import the black red and Yellow of Germany or the red of the the USSR etc. etc. the results were disasterous.

The conclusion of this is that I can now make the following statement………. “Lubavitch is without doubt the best possible approach to Judaism….if you’re a Lubavitcher .” If that is the way you find it easiest to fulfil yourself as a Jew then Lubavitch is the best possible Derech. But not for me! My own Derech the Litvishe ( Yeshiva oriented approach; Gateshead, Mir etc. ) is without any doubt the best Derech in the world. But maybe not for you. Each of the authentic Jewish flags allows there adherents to camp around them and release their potential.

After the sub division of the Tribe of Joseph there were thirteen tribes. It is not coincidental that the numerical value of the word Echod (one) is thirteen. The oneness of the Jewish people is achieved by recognising others having things to bring which we don’t have and all working together for one goal; camped round the Tabernacle we achieve it.

Rabbi Y Y Rubinstein has thrilled audiences from Jerusalem to Manchester and Johannesburg to Los Angeles. There are two reasons for his success. One is a mastery of sources in Jewish philosophy and his understanding of contemporary events. The other is his unique delivery…If you have the opportunity to benefit from his wisdom…do not miss it!

Rabbi Professor Dovid Gottlieb

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