A wonderful sight – hundreds of thousands of Israelites, probably more than two million in all, standing in organised groups to hear the word of God.
But it has a down side. When there are massive crowds present, the individual can hide behind the community.
There are times when it is essential for the individual to face personal scrutiny, to be alone, to be unable to avoid attention.
There is a precedent in the sections of the Torah which deal with leprosy. Concerning the leper the Torah says, “He shall sit alone: outside the camp shall his habitation be” (Lev. 13:15). In olden days lepers had to be isolated in order to prevent contagion.
Spiritually we all need to separate ourselves from the camp from time to time, to stand alone in all our possibly sorry solitariness. One such time is when our actions require attention and correction.
Another is when, like Abraham, we see so much around us that is a blot on the name of Man, and we need to be like the patriarch and to stand on the other wide and if necessary face mockery and abuse because of our moral courage.