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Parshat Naso

By: Mrs. Rena Coren

A famous question that arises in this week’s parsha is in regards to the sacrifices brought by the Nesi’im, the leaders of the shevatim.  There is a general rule that the Torah is very precise and concise in its wording . Yet when it comes to the karbanot of the nesi’im, each leader’s sacrifice is described in great detail.  If there were major  differences or even slight nuances, we would be less inclined to ask about this phenomenon. However, each of the karbanot are exactly the same. Therefore, why the need to elaborate on each one?


There are several different approaches that answer this question and at the same time provide insight into the value system of the Torah.  The Ramban(Bamidbar 7,8), citing a midrash, elucidates that though externally the sacrifices seemed the same, because internally each leader had different intentions and reasons for bringing the karban, it transformed one karban into something entirely different from the next.  It follows that anytime one does an act, the crucial determining factor are the thoughts and intentions behind it.


Rav Pincus in Tiferet Hatorah takes a different approach.  He explains that though the vessels in the pesukim seem to be the same (for the same words are used),they are actually very different, based on the tribe’s mentality and culture. For example, in China, people use long thin sticks to eat their food.  We in the western culture refer to this as “chopsticks”, while a Chinese person refers to it as his fork. No, we would say to him, those are just sticks…this is a fork. What? The Chinese person would reply. You call that metal thing with four teeth on it a fork? What did the chicken ever do to you that you are stabbing it with metal prongs every time you eat?  Who is right in the argument? Both sides are ,for each  person is speaking based on their own culture. So too in the pesukim here- when it says “ke’arah”, Reuven brought what he refered to as a “ke’arah”, while Shimon brought what to him was a “ke’arah”.  Thus, the pesukim seem to be saying the same thing over and over, but actually it is not repetitive at all.


Though both explanations are beautiful and each depicts the uniqueness of each karban based on the intention behind what was brought(Ramban) or the varying definitions of the words based on each tribe’s mentality (Rav PIncus), we still need a stronger answer to tie it all together and elucidate why such an enlongated description of the Nesi’im’s offerings is presented.  The Chofetz Chayim provides and answer and in the process answers another question.  The Chofetz Chayim compares the lengthy description of offerings brought in Naso by the nesi’im, to those brought in Parshat Vayakhel, which in stark contrast barely mentions the donations of the leaders – to the point that even the word “nesi’im is missing a “yud”.   The contrast teaches us how precious  it is to Hashem when Am Yisroel loves each other and shows kavod to one another. Each leader brought the exact same thing- no one tried to add to his own sacrifice, in order to have “one up” on the other tribes and cause jealousy.  A step further , based on the previous explanations, is that no one looked disparagingly at each other’s way of bringing the karban or  the differing intentions behind it- rather they appreciated and made space for each others’ different forms of avodat Hashem, for the ultimate goal was the same.  This, in contrast to Parshat Vayakhel, where Rashi brings down that the nesi’im didn’t want to participate with the rest of the nation at the time of their donations to the mishkan- “let the nation bring first and we’ll complete what is missing”.  This blatant separation from the rest of Am Yisrael stemmed from ga’avah and the Torah reflects Hashem’s disapproval through the extreme brevity of words and even letters (hence, the missing “yud”). For this fundamental teaching of how much Hashem values ahavat chinam, it was worth using many pesukim to describe what seems to be the same thing, over and over.


The lesson we can learn from this is extremely powerful and pertinent for our generation.  It has become second nature to look at others and say to ourselves(or to those around us)..”too frum..”, “too strict”, “too tziyoni”,“too modern..” and based on this we distance ourselves from our fellow Jews.   But , as seen from above, this is not what Hashem wants- we have to work on living our own emet but at the same time, to be able to appreciate the emet of others even it is so different from our own way, for in the end- we all have the same goals.  And these goals, whether personal or national, can only be attained when we do it together.




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