The longest parsha of the Torah is the parsha of Naso, which we read
publicly this Shabat. A great part of its length is due to the repetition of
the offerings and gifts of the leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel at the
dedication of the Mishkan. Since each one of the twelve leaders brought the
identical offering to the occasion and, furthermore, since the Torah itself
at the conclusion of the parsha gives us a total summation of their
offerings, the question naturally begs itself as to why the Torah should
expend so many words and so much detail on this matter.
This question has troubled all of the commentators to the Torah and many
divergent answers and opinions have been advanced to help explain the
matter. All seem to be in agreement that the Torah wishes to emphasize the
individual worth and contribution of each of these leaders of Israel and
gave each one recognition by listing his offering individually.
While this explanation and insight is undoubtedly true, it seems not to be
wholly satisfactory in light of the great length that the Torah goes to in
its detail of every offering. Each of the leaders could have been mentioned
by name without having to repeat the entire paragraph detailing his
offering. And yet as the length of the parsha indicates, the Torah took no
shortcuts regarding this matter. Even in kabbalistic thought and works, no
clear explanation emerges regarding this anomaly of Torah writing.
It would be arrogant and foolish of me to advance any personal explanation
of mine to address this difficulty. Though space has been left for every
generation of Jews to add their insights into the Torah there are areas
where even angels should fear to tread. Just as with parsha of the red
heifer, the Torah purposely offers up to us a rule that defies our rational
powers of logic and explanation, so too are there are other areas of the
Torah that defy our sense of proportion and human understanding.
I have always felt that this alone – the mystery of it all – is in itself a
portion of what the Torah wishes to communicate to us with the repetition of
the offerings of the leaders of Israel in this week’s parsha. A Torah that
makes perfect sense to the human mind can never be a Divine Torah. The
mystery, even call it the illogic of certain sections of the Torah is itself
the sign of its Divine origin.
The error of the “enlightened ones,” the schools of biblical criticism and
of many who deem themselves to be scholars in these matters is that they
approach the Torah as they would approach any human work of wisdom or prose.
If one approaches the Torah from the vantage point of it being a Divine
document, mysterious and wondrous, greater than what the human mind can
encompass, then the Torah takes on a different dimension in one’s thoughts
Perhaps this parsha is one of the many places where Jews can only stand back
and wonder in awe as to the Divine wisdom that the Torah blesses us with
even when we are unable to discern that wisdom clearly.
Rabbi Berel Wein