This week’s d’var Torah is from Rabbi Art Vernon, Rabbi at Congregation Shaaray Shalom, West Hempstead, NY, and National Chaplain, NJCOS.
Parashat Bamidbar finds the Israelites in the wilderness, still at Mt. Sinai, but making preparations to head toward the Promised Land. One of the preparations is taking a census of able-bodied men in case the Israelites need to defend themselves. The Torah specifies that males age twenty and older should be counted. At that time, twenty years old was considered adulthood. Can you imagine taking on the responsibilities of adulthood at age 20 today? I think some of you may be able to do that. Notice that females were not counted. Today, we would also count females as we include females in Scouting.
Another preparation is organizing the line of march, the order of the tribes as they proceed through the wilderness. The tribes are told to follow the leader carrying their flag with their insignia. Each tribe has its own flag with its own insignia. Sort of like we have in Scouting. Our flags have our Unit number on them, which identifies what group we are part of. But our insignia is the same for all of us, the fleur-de-lis. Perhaps you have been in a Council or civic event in which many Scout units participated, each assembled behind their own Scout flag.
Why is the fleur-de-lis the symbol and insignia of Scouting? It was a common symbol on maps and on compasses, indicating the North, and it still is! It represents focus, direction and steadfastness, all qualities that we value in Scouting. Today, when we learn orienteering, everyone has a compass. Back then, usually only the leader or a couple of people had a compass and led the group. So, the fleur-de-lis can also be a symbol of leadership. One of our goals in Scouting is to help each of our youth members, all of you, to become leaders in Scouting and leaders in the community and the world when you are older. Just as there are many opportunities to be a leader in Scouting, from the Patrol, to the Unit and to the Council, so too there will be many opportunities to lead when you are older. We hope that your experience in Scouting prepares you to be a leader later in life. I took advantage of all the leadership training and service opportunities available in Scouting when I was youth member, and I was well-prepared to take on leadership roles throughout my life. May the fleur-de-lis of Scouting lead you to your true North!
Rabbi Art Vernon