Shabbat-Table Talks: Bemidbar
By: Rabbi Ralph Tawil <email@example.com>
Value: Organization and Order.
One of the skills of successful people is an ability to be organized and to keep
things in order. Putting things in their place saves much time and aggravation
and leads to a more efficient life. Imagine what your local library would look
like if it were not for a system of putting things in order. This applies as
well to your own books, clothing, paper and other things. Teaching our children
to put things in their places and to be organized is an important step in
teaching them to classify things as important or unimportant. It can also make
for more considerate and tidy living.
Background: This Shabbat we begin to read the fourth book of the Torah,
Bemidbar. This book recounts the time that Israel was in the wilderness.
Originally, the plan was that Israel would travel only a few days from Mount
Sinai to the land of Canaan and conquer the land. They ended up spending forty
years in the wilderness instead. Bemidbar begins with God’s command to count
the people and to arrange them in an orderly way around the Mishkan. The Torah
used many verses to describe the way Israel was counted and ordered around the
Mishkan. From this we can see that the organization and order of Israel was
important to the Torah.
Lord spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying:
by its contingent, under the insignias of their Father’s House, shall the
Children of Israel encamp, at-a-distance, around the Tent of the appointment,
shall they encamp.
encamping eastward, toward sunrise: the contingent of the camp of Yehuda,
according to their forces….
Analysis: This was not a ragtag mob of people traveling through the
wilderness. Rather, this was an ordered nation, arrayed around a central
structure that signifies God’s presence in their midst (the Mishkan), marching
towards a destination (the Promised Land.) Order and organization show a degree
of self-respect. Hashem, by commanding Israel to march in an ordered and
organized way, was teaching Israel to respect themselves as a nation by being
organized. We can apply this idea to many different areas of our lives.
Discussion: Why do you think it was important for the tribes to march
and to camp in a certain order? (Order allows for communication that is more
efficient and more organized traveling. Not to mention the greater ease of
finding specific people of different tribes. In addition, when there is an
agreed upon order, everyone knows their place and there are fewer disputes about
what area belongs to whom. Coordination leads to less fighting. Everyone knows
where he belongs, so no one tries to take another’s portion. Many disputes
between countries center around territories that two countries claim as their
What is the difference between a stampede and a march? Have
you ever seen a parade? Why do people march in order and in uniform?
Why should we keep our things and the things that we share
with others in their places?
Orderliness shows self-respect when it is done with your
own possessions, and consideration for others when it is done with commonly
shared things. (It is a good idea to return the books of the Bet Midrash or
synagogue to their places. This makes it easier for the next person to find and
benefit from the books.)
“Everything in its place and a place for every thing.”
This is one easy slogan to remember when trying to organize. Putting things in
their place saves time energy and prevents frustration. If a thing does not have
a place, make a place for it and share that new fact with the others who will be
using the thing. (For example, if you share keys, “From now on the place for
the car keys is in the top drawer.”)
Skills and activities—get organized.
There are some activities to do with young children (ages
4-6) to teach them about organization (not recommended for Shabbat).
Classifying things as important and filing them in their
place for easy access.
Junk day—what things can you throw out? Every so often
get a garbage bag and just throw away those things that you really do not need.
(Source: Dorothy Rich, Megaskills, pp. 88-90)
Where I live in Israel there is a movement called “megirot,”
which means “drawers.” In this movement, people get together on a weekly
basis and discuss how they were able to clean their drawers and house more
efficiently. The premise is that when their drawers, houses and lives are more
organized, it frees their minds to think about things that are more spiritual.
Since organizing can lead to a more spiritual life, then the process itself is a
step toward the spiritual.
Organize time - Just as we organize our space, we should
organize our time. Making a schedule
Remember: Although organization and order are important, it is healthy to allow a certain degree of mess during the process of playing, learning, creating etc. Organizing and ordering are what we do afterwards. I am sure, the greatest artists and sculptors made messes and got themselves dirty while they worked. Don’t let order and organization stifle creativity and learning.
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