Rabbi Raymond Beyda
Not the Same Thing
Parashat Naso is the longest weekly Torah portion containing 176 verses.
The usually concise narration of the Torah is "padded" with a repetitious
itemization of the offerings brought by the heads of the 12 tribes at the
celebration of the dedication of the alter in the Tabernacle. Each brought
the identical list of gifts of gold, silver and sacrifices in honor of the
grand event. Why didn't the Torah list the items once, on the first day,
and then inform us that all the other tribes also offered the same items?
There are several answers offered by our great Torah commentators including
one that can be understood if we begin at the start of the fourth book of
the Torah - Bemidbar. At the inception of the book that relates many of the
incidents that occurred during the 40 years that our people wandered
through the desert until the generation that left Egypt died and left their
children to enter and inherit Eretz Yisrael, Hashem commands Moshe Rabenu
to conduct a census. Nachmanides - Ramban - points out something very
significant about this count. "Hashem told Moshe: 'Count each and every
member of Israel with honor and dignity. Do not merely ask the head of each
household how many children he has. Rather, everyone should pass before you
with honor, and you should count them.'"
Why did Hashem command Moshe to conduct his survey in such an inefficient
manner? It certainly would have been much easier to ask the head of each
family to submit family details to a central point where the numbers could
be tallied. Using census takers as his representatives would have left
Moshe free to handle much more difficult community matters. The result
certainly would have been the same total!
Hashem wanted to teach Moshe the value and the uniqueness of each and every
Jew. One who deals with a group must always remember that even the largest
congregation is made up of individuals. Each was created by G-d to perform
a certain task unique to that person in fulfillment of Hashem's master
plan. Each must be treated with respect and dignity equal to his or her
status as a soldier in G-d's army for whom the entire creation could have
been made. No one is just a number!
When we read the offerings brought by the leader of each tribe the
quantities and the items all look the same to us. However, our sages teach
that each leader infused his gift with special intents that expressed the
unique qualities and character of his tribe. All of us have the same Torah
and the same commandments to observe yet each individual has the
opportunity to infuse his or her performance of G-d's commands with one's
unique, personal touch. Every day Jews pray from a standard text called the
siddur. Our Shemoneh Esreh contains the same words repeated 3 times a day.
That is how it looks on the surface. Through study of Torah and performance
of misvot each of us has an opportunity to grow and develop our
relationship with our Maker and our service to Him. Each person in a way
unique unto himself can please our Creator by complying with His will in a
manner unique unto oneself. One's special status as a son or daughter of
the King obligates each one of us to treat others royally and to perform
our duties with dignity. May we all meet the responsibility in our own
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Project Genesis, Inc.