Rabbi Milevsky's Thought of the Week: Bamidbar - 5771
In the beginning of Parashat Bamidbar Hashem commands Moshe and Aharon to take a census of all males above the age of twenty. This was the second census in the wilderness; the first being the onementioned in the book of Shemot. However there was a difference between the two. Whereas in this week's portion the tribes were counted separately, in Shemot the nation was counted as a whole. Some authorities explain that the count in Shemot transpired before the construction of the Tabernacle.
Before the nation had a central place of worship a count by tribe would have been a danger to Jewish unity. Counting a tribe on its own could have led to factionalism among the children of Israel since it would have strengthened loyalty to one‟s tribe. However after the tabernacle was constructed and placed in their midst, physically and spiritually, the risk of tribalism evaporated.
Disunity is no longer a problem when Jews have a house of worship as a central part of their life. Individualism is important and encouraged as long as the centrality of Hashem remains as a foundation.