The Jewish calendar and its nuances, for those that study it, is a fascinating subject. It is a very precise and exquisitely crafted masterpiece comprised of an enormous amount of intertwined calculations and principles.
In the Ancient World the Jewish people were considered to be the masters of Science and astronomy. When the brilliant Macedonian general Alexander the Great, conqueror of the entire then known world, reached the Holy Land he had a dramatic encounter with Rabi Shimon HaTzadik (who we mentioned last week was the last of the Men of the Great Assembly).He was captivated by him and brought his teacher and mentor, Aristotle to meet R.Shimon. During this meeting R.Shimon HaTzadik revealed to Aristotle the foundations and secrets of astronomy. That is how the Jewish field of astronomy became known to the ancient Greeks and other nations.
When NASA, in the 1970’s and 80’s,finally had the tools to accurately measure the length of the lunar month the figure that they arrived at was to three decimal places the same as that which the Jews have being using for thousands of years.
In addition to the hidden intricacy of the calendar there is surprisingly a good amount of complexity in the times ordained for reading of the weekly sedra. And this year ,because of a rare combination of factors, we in Israel are going to read the parsha of Bamidbar not in the week before Shavuot despite the fact that this is one of the tenets on which our Torah reading program is based.(Those Jews living outside of Israel will read Bechukotai for the following reason: the eighth day of Pesach this year fell out on Shabbat and while Jews all over the world were still celebrating Pesach we in Israel read the following parsha and therefore are ahead of everyone else. For this reason communities in the Diaspora will indeed be reading Bamidbar in the week before Shavuot and will only ‘catch up’ in another 8 weeks with parshiot Matot-Masei.)
The point of this long introduction is the following:
In. most years parshat Bamidbar doesn’t get much exposure as we generally give most of our attention to the upcoming chag of Shavuot. This year, however we are free of that and can therefore use this opportunity to bring out an important and central point.
The Torah elaborates in very great length the results of the first census of the Jewish people, enumerating how many people were in each tribe and where their place on encampment was in relation to the Mishkan (tabernacle). The Torah then ends off with an interesting phrase ‘’ish ul machanayhu ve ish ul diglo’’ “each person encamped according to his place in the camp and according to his (tribes) flag”
Each tribe had a flag with a colour and symbol representing its specific strengths and characteristics. Every person was able to identify his unique and individual place in the context of his family his tribe and the Jewish people live his life in a manner that allowed him to reach his full potential as a human being and as a Jew.
The period of time that we the Jews lived in the desert was unique in all our history as it served as a model for all future generations as to the optimal utilization of our time on earth. Their lesson to future generations was that despite the fact that we are united by a common cause and calling, we are individuals each with the ability to achieve greatness with our unique G-D given strengths.
However it seems difficult to believe that all people have the potential to reach greatness .It seems, in our eyes that some do in fact get a ‘better deal’ than others.
In Lithuania in, the 1930’s, existed a yeshiva which attracted the very best and greatest minds from the 4 corners of the Jewish world-the Mir Yeshiva. One of those who came to learn was a boy who came from a background which was very different from the rarefied atmosphere of the Lithuanian yeshivas, R. Shlomo Wolbe ztz’’l who originated from Germany which was then at the cutting-edge of culture. The Dean of the Yeshiva at the time was the almost iconic R Yerucham Levovitz whose words and thoughts influenced his students for their entire lives.
He discussed the aforementioned dilemma in one of his discourses.
Almost 60 years later R Wolbe shared R Yerucham’s idea with his students in the replanted Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem.
He said that a person was created in G-D’s image. In other words Hashem gave each person an aspect of Himself so to speak. Everything about Hasem is perfect so it means that everyone has a part of themselves which is complete and perfect.
This is the basis of each person’s personality development and success and by by utilizing his own unique capabilities a person can reach greatness .True greatness is not measured by one’s surroundings but rather by one’s ability to look into himself and tap into that untainted and complete part of him and bring to fruition the achievement and greatness already dormant within him.
Greatness is finding the G-dlike part of ourselves-and living with it.