| Parshah |

Flag It

Your life is the best for you to serve Hashem in your unique way


“Each man according to his flag, with the signs of their fathers’ home, so should Bnei Yisrael camp….” (Bamidbar 2:2)

ebbe Yitzchak of Radvil writes that the nation had flags to help each tribe identify their location in the camp, just as an army has flags for the soldiers to find their camp.  But did the flags have no deeper meaning than simply serving as landmarks for the Yidden to find their way home? 
The midrash (Tanchuma 14) states: When Hashem came to Har Sinai, he came with 22,000 angels, divided into groups according to their flags. When Bnei Yisrael saw them, they said, “We wish we could also have flags like them. We wish Hashem would show His love to us [and give us flags].”
Hashem immediately said to Moshe, “Make flags for Bnei Yisrael because they are yearning for them. In the future, I will redeem them in the merit of the flags.” We see clearly from this midrash that the flags have profound meaning and importance (Rav Elimelech Biderman, Torah Wellsprings).

We were sitting around the Yom Tov table Shavuos night several years ago, surrounded by our family and guests. As was his habit, my husband brought up the famous gemara, where Rabi Yosi states, “If not for Torah, I would just be another Yosi in the shuk.”

“What does receiving the Torah mean to you personally?” asked my husband. “If not for Torah, who do you think you would be?” He then gave each person the chance to respond. We’ve done this often over the years, and the responses vary. But that particular Shavuos remains etched in my mind, as I truly got a glimpse into the value of this thought.

Flags remind us that every person, like every angel, is different, and is endowed with a Divine mission that only he can accomplish to serve Hashem. Sometimes a person witnesses the beautiful avodas Hashem of others and feels discouraged because he knows that he can’t serve Hashem as well as they. He looks at others and feels, “What’s my worth compared to them?”
Don’t despair or feel unimportant; there’s a unique aspect of avodas Hashem where you can excel more than anyone else.

One by one we went around the table until we got to Rimon. Rimon, who davened in our shul, was a familiar face at our table. A sweet man with a penchant for telling jokes, he lived in a group home and appreciated spending Yom Tov with family. Rimon was quite bright cognitively, but several personality handicaps left him limited in his life choices. When it came to his turn, he looked pensive.

This week’s parshah also discusses the counting of Bnei Yisrael. Rashi writes that because Hashem loves the Jewish nation, He counts them all the time. The message is the same as the flags. Each Yid is counted and needed; no Yid is extra.
Sometimes people are upset with the life challenges that Hashem prepared for them. They think that if their conditions were different, they would be able to serve Hashem so much better. So they ask, “Why couldn’t I be wealthy?” Or “Why couldn’t I be born to a different family?” Or “Why do others have more nachas than I do?”
But the answer is that Hashem wants something unique and special from you, something that only you can perform. Therefore, you can’t have the life of others because that wouldn’t support you on the mission that Hashem custom-prepared for you. Your life is the best for you to serve Hashem in your unique way.

“If not for Torah, what would I be?” Rimon repeated the question slowly.  “If not for Torah,” suddenly his voice broke, “I would just be another disabled person in this world! Someone who can’t accomplish or live a normal life and I’d have nothing to make me feel good about myself! But with Torah,” he banged his hand on the table for emphasis, “I’m going to stay up tonight and learn! I’m going to daven tomorrow in shul! I’m going to do whatever mitzvos I can! And I know that I’m not just another handicapped person in this world. Hashem made me this way because He loves me this way. And I am so happy that I can be a ben Torah in Hashem’s world!”


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 896)

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