by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
This week in the parsha, we read about the korbanos (sacrifices) that were
brought by the heads of each of the tribes after the completion of the
Tabernacle. The Torah describes each sacrifice in full detail - precisely
what was brought and in what quantity. This leads to a great deal of
repetition, because each sacrifice was exactly the same as the others. Why
did the Torah take up so much space? Could we not have merely read the
contents of the sacrifices once, followed by the order of the tribes?
Rabbi Shmuel Greinemann of Bnei Braq tells us how it came to be that every
tribal head brought the same offering. The decision, he said, was set on
the second day, when Nesanel ben Tzuar of the tribe of Yissachar came
forward. He obviously knew what sacrifice had been presented the previous
day by Nachshon ben Aminadav of Yehudah, and he _chose_ to appear with
exactly the same. His intent was to avoid jealousy, which could have arisen
had each one brought a different offering -- each could have attempted to
"outdo" the others. This effort to avoid jealousy, and demonstrate honor
and friendship between these tribal heads, was exceptional. Rabbi
Greinemann explains that G-d was so pleased that He permitted the seventh
sacrifice to take place on the Sabbath (even though individuals' sacrifices
were normally prohibited), and also recorded the sacrifices - in full - for
Thus we learn how important it is to avoid doing things that will inspire
jealousy. If this is so concerning a spiritual matter like sacrifices, how
much more true is it when concerning material goods?
We live in a generation busy "keeping up with the Joneses." Everyone wants
to make a mint -- and show it off. The wealthy hold Bar Mitzvah parties in
football stadiums. It's fine to paste "We're Ready for Moshiach!" [the
Messiah] on the back of a Rolls-Royce, but what if the Messiah says you
have to go up to Israel without your car?
Someone recently said to me, "you're a .org, right? That's why you're still
here!" The ".com boom" was fueled by the amount of venture capital a
company could acquire, and the size of the operation it could build.
Everyone had to be big -- no, HUGE. As we know, the ability to make a
profit serving customers was often a lost art. Many of the survivors today
are companies which did not play that game, which did not leap for the
glory of being the biggest, the grandest, the deepest in red ink.
Judaism doesn't call for being an ascetic, but it does ask for a reasonable
restraint of our material pursuits (material goods are one thing,
materialism quite another). And not only is there an inherent problem of
running after wealth; there is also the issue of inspiring jealousy from
friends and neighbors. The tribal heads in our parsha gave quite generously
to the Tabernacle upon its dedication, and yet carefully demonstrated
mutual love and respect instead of trying to "go one better." Could we find
more worthwhile models?