Rabbi Daniel Stein
Rabbi Daniel Stein

Organized Religion

At the beginning of Parshas Shelach the Torah lists the names of the meraglim who descended to tour and survey Eretz Yisrael. "These are their names: For the tribe of Reuven, Shamua the son of Zakur. For the tribe of Shimon, Shaphat the son of Chori. For the tribe of Yehudah, Calev the son of Yephuneh. For the tribe of Yissachar, Yigal the son of Yoseph. For the tribe of Ephraim, Hoshea the son of Nun etc." (Bamidbar 13:4-8). The first four tribes that are mentioned, Reuven, Shimon, Yehudah, and Yissachar follow the chronological order of their birth, however, the fifth, Ephraim, breaks the pattern which is not restored subsequently. This inconsistency prompts the Seforno to suggest that the Torah in fact listed the mergalim according to their own age and not according to the chronological birth of their respective shevatim. The Ramban disagrees and argues that the meraglim were not actually recorded according to their age at all but rather according to their degree of wisdom.

However, Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky (Emes Le'Yaakov) suggests that while the list was initially arranged chronologically, the order in which the latter eight shevatim and meraglim are mentioned is entirely haphazard without any compelling rhyme or reason. Rav Yaakov claims that historically, the meraglim approached Moshe chronologically in order to volunteer, however this systematic procession quickly became chaotic when the representative from Ephraim, Hoshea bin Nun, asserted himself ahead of his rightful spot in line. This is supported by the pasuk which states in connection with the meraglim, "And all of you approached me and said, 'Let us send men ahead of us'" (Devarim 1:22). Rashi explains that the meraglim pounced on Moshe all at once, in a disorganized frenzy, where those who were younger were pushing ahead of those who were older. For this reason, Moshe davened solely for the welfare of Hoshea by adding the letter yud to his name, since he alone had demonstrated a somewhat volatile disposition which had sparked the pandemonium.

Rav Meir Tzvi Bergman (Shaarei Orah) suggests that a critical component of the tragedy of the meraglim can be attributed to their eventual lack of order and organization. When things are cluttered, out of place, and in disarray, it prevents us from properly organizing our thoughts and priorities, and ultimately obstructs our ability to make thoughtful decisions and good choices. Sanctity and spirituality can only exist within the confines of a stable and systematically structured environment. The Alter from Kelm once traveled to visit his son while he was away at yeshiva. When the Alter arrived, he was unable to immediately locate his son in his dormitory, but when he saw that his bed was crisply set, his clothes creased and folded, and his closet neatly arranged, the Alter concluded that his son must be learning studiously and succeeding since orderliness is the hallmark of productivity and holiness.

The establishment of order and organization might even be one of the reasons Hashem created the world in the first place. The Gemara (Megillah 15b) states, "whoever attributes a statement to its originator has brought redemption to the world." While honesty in assigning credit is certainly praiseworthy, in what sense does this bring redemption to the world? The Maharal (Derech Chaim) explains that initially the world was in a state of muddled confusion, as the pasuk states, "v'ha'aretz haysa tohu vavohu - the land was in a state of chaos" (Breishis 1:2). It was precisely the process of creation that introduced order to the world by separating between light and darkness, the skies and the earth, the water and the dry land, and the day and the night. In the age of the internet, we can certainly appreciate the pernicious effects of obscurity and anonymity when issuing statements and offering opinions, and the vital need for accountability and responsibility. Therefore, citing sources and ascribing credit restores some semblance of order to the world, and in turn justifies and redeems the purpose for which the world was created.

At the beginning of Sefer Bamidbar the Torah spends an inordinate amount of time detailing the flags, formations, and the manner in which the Jewish people encamped and traveled around the Mishkan in the desert. Similarly, all of the procedures and protocols of the Mishkan itself, while stationary and in transit, were highly regimented and precisely delegated. The Maor Vashemesh, and later Rav Aharon Kotler (Mishnas Rebbi Ahron) suggest that the Torah is stressing that organization and order are indispensable prerequisites for achieving sanctity and cultivating a religiously inspired and productive atmosphere. In fact, the word "seder - order" is the root of the word "siddur" which we use to daven, because without seder it is impossible to connect with Hashem through tefillah.

Additionally, the night of Pesach, which is saturated with a multitude of mitzvos, revolves around "The Seder - The Order." Ostensibly, this is an unusual way of referring to a night which is punctuated by eating matzah and marror, drinking wine, and retelling the story of our exodus from Egypt. However, perhaps this is another indication and reminder that only through the organized medium of the seder, which is an orchestrated and coordinated effort of transmission from one generation to the next, can we deepen our relationship with Hashem. During the summer many of us will depart from our usual routine and schedule, but we should not allow this to create a disorderly and disorganized culture as it relates to our davening, learning, and performing mitzvos. We must do our best to maintain our flags and formation, and preserve as much as possible our regular sense of seder, which is so critical to our religious growth.

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