The Children of Israel shall encamp, each man by his banner according to the insignias of their fathers’ household… (2:2)
This week’s Torah portion speaks about the traveling and encampments of the Jewish people. It tells us about the composition of the tribes, in what position they traveled, who traveled first and last, which tribe disassembled the Mishkan, the travelling tabernacle, which carried it, as well as the flag of each tribe. Why is it necessary for the Torah to articulate these events in such great detail? What message is being conveyed to us?
Imagine a fast-food restaurant gets a phone order. The owner jots down the order on a piece of paper and places it on the counter. He takes the next order and writes that down on another piece of paper, and so on. Twenty minutes later, the guy who ordered the spicy chicken fingers receives a bowl of nutritional carrot soup, and a woman that never even placed an order receives a free portion of spicy chicken fingers!
In order to run a business or do anything successfully, there must be structure. Without traffic lights and proper road signs, no one will ever be able to get anywhere safely. The Torah is emphasizing the same concept in spirituality. If a person wants to grow spiritually, he needs to be organized. When life is structured a person can focus and raise himself to reach his potential with greater ease.
It is common to think, “If only there were 25 hours in a day I would be able to accomplish so much more.” The truth is, a person only says this if his day is not planned out. When a person plans ahead of time that between this and this hour he will do something particular, and between this and this hour he will do something else in particular, he’ll end up accomplishing so much more and have time for everything. Finishing Shas may seem like a mountain too great to climb, but only when one has no plan or system for how to tackle it. Rabbi Meir Shapiro's program of Daf Yomi – learning one page of Talmud a day – was based on this principle. A good system shortens the road to the goal. As the saying goes, “Don’t agonize. Organize!”