Parashat B'midbar

Standing Guard

The details of how the tribes camped around the Tabernacle teach us lessons about giving respect and honor to the people and causes we care about.

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These shomrim were not only giving honor to God. When people saw how the Mishkan or temple was cherished, says one commentator, "their hearts would be softened" to return to the values which that place represented.

Many of us see ourselves as shomrim today. Some of us see ourselves as shomrim of the environment, others of human rights or of workers in garment factories in developing countries. My friend, trespassing on property, owned by developers of nuclear weapons, saw himself as a shomer of all humanity. Some of us see ourselves simply as shomrim, keepers, of our brothers, sisters and neighbors.

The Torah in the Book of B'midbar, or known in English as Numbers, is teaching each of us how to be a proper shomer. We cannot content ourselves with protecting that which we care about from its enemies. We must live our lives in a way that gives kavod, honor and glory, to our causes and which softens the hearts of all those who see us.

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Rabbi Phil Miller

Rabbi Phil Miller is the vice president of the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore. He attended Yeshiva University in New York City and previously was the director of the 92nd Street Y Bronfman Center for Jewish Life.