Since antiquity, the flag has evoked a sense of patriotism and group identity. It's therefore hardly surprising that in the aftermath of the Exodus each tribe raised its own distinctive flag. The question is what took so long? After marching in formation for over a year, Jewish flags emerged only in year two?
Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetsky (1891-1986) explains that without a shared collective mission distinctiveness is only divisive. Without a unified vision, or joint narrative, celebrating differences only fragments.
The first Jewish tribal flags are raised at the precise moment that the Mishkan (The Tabernacle) is built and the Aron (the Ark of the Covenant) is fixed at the centre of the encampment.
As Jews, true celebration of diversity can only begin when Torah is our focal point. Often throughout our history, the Jew has been united in fate rather than faith. As we approach Shavuot, let us raise the flag of true unity based on a shared faith and mission.
Rabbi Daniel Green