Yerushalayim: Two Visions of Community

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Yom Yerushalayim, Shavuot, and Parshat Bamidbar.

The first census, which counted those who left Egypt took place on Rosh Chodesh Iyar, a month after the Mishkan was completed. There was another census, taken when the mishkan was built (the silver from which was used for the sockets of the Mishkan) 6 months earlier. The numbers are the same in both censuses!

Why were they counted only six months apart? The first counting was communal and anonymous; the second counting was individualistic – it was done by tribe and each person was counted by Moshe (“במספר שמות”)

There are two types of community: the melting pot and the salad bowl. There are different times where we need each of these types of community; this is highlighted by the two censuses. Sometimes individuality needs to be put aside for the sake of unity, especially in the wake of national tragedy (e.g. חטא העגל).

Sefirat HaOmer teaches us the importance of absolute commitment to Torah while at the same time allowing people to express themselves as individuals. We have to be committed to truth while still appreciating every human and everyone’s contribution, be it a soldier putting his/her life on the line so we can live our lives or the founders who set up the infrastructure of the State of Israel.

The very name of Jerusalem: composed of יראה (fear/reverence) and שלם (peace) embodies this duality.

“When you want to be passionate about Torah make sure that Torah includes Ahavat Yisrael”

Delivered at the OU Israel Center, June 2nd, 2019 (Yom Yerushalayim 5779)
This shiur is sponsored by Mel David