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Different Strokes for Different Folks

By: Mrs Malka Hubscher

Parshat Nasso describes in great detail the gifts of the Nesi’im, the heads of each tribe, to the Mishkan during the inauguration ceremonies. The Nesi’im each brought the exact same gift, yet the text detailing such is repeated 12 different times in the Torah with the only thing changing is the name of the Nasi. The gifts they brought were as follows:

“ silver dish, the weight thereof was a hundred and thirty shekels, one silver basin of seventy shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary; both of them full of fine flour mingled with oil for a meal-offering; one golden pan of ten shekels, full of incense; one young bullock, one ram, one he-lamb of the first year, for a burnt-offering; one male of the goats for a sin-offering;  and for the sacrifice of peace-offerings, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, five he-lambs of the first year.”

These types of gifts were typical and useful in the Mishkan. The silver and gold dishes, the sacrifices, the incense and fine flour were all part of daily life in the Mishkan. Despite the fact that each Nasi brought the exact same thing, the Torah lists them individually to express the importance of each and every contribution and the integral role that each tribe plays in the formation of the nation.

We can also learn the importance of each contribution from another gift given by the Nesi’im.

Immediately prior to learning of the individual contributions of each tribe, there is one gift which all the Nesiim gave together, the covered wagons which were passed on to the Leviim to assist in carrying the dismantled Mishkan while the nation traveled. A very interesting scene unfolds when the Nesi’im suddenly appear with these wagons before Moshe.  Moshe does not accept the gifts or even converse with the Nesi’im. Rather, Hashem appears to Moshe and instructs him (7:5-6)

“Take it of them, that they may be to do the service of the Ohel Moed; and you shall give them unto the Levites, to every man according to his service.' 6 And Moses took the wagons and the oxen, and gave them unto the Levites.”

The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabba fills in and explains that Moshe initially did not accept the wagons from the Nesi’im. The instructions on how to build and design of the Mishkan had been given to Moshe in great detail, with very specific commands and precise technical details. Never, has Hashem instructed Moshe to build wagons to carry the heavier structural parts of the Mishkan while they traveled. From Moshe’s perspective, the entire edifice was to be broken down when they traveled and carried on the shoulders of the Leviim. This may have been a challenging task, but from Moshe’s perspective, it was the expectation of G-d and therefore so it must be done.

But Hashem intervenes and instructs Moshe to take them and to pass them on to Leviim in order to ease the burden of their travels. In this seemingly insignificant encounter we learn of two different leadership styles, that of Moshe and that of the Nesi’im. Moshe was appointed by G-d as the leader of the Jewish people. Every move he made was by the command of G-d and reflected the will of G-d. He is a prophet, meant to convey the exact and uncorrupted word of Hashem to the people.  He assumed that if Hashem did not instruct him to build wagons then there must be no need for them.

However, the Nesi’im reflected an entirely different type of leadership. They were the representative of the people. They spent their days helping the people with their mundane issues, organizing and keeping peace within their individual tribe. The problem-solved using their own interpersonal skills, came up with creative solutions to complex problems. When they saw the Mishkan completed and standing erect in all its glory, they immediately wondered to themselves, “how will the Leviim carry these large beams and heavy structural items while traveling in the desert?” The Nesi’im began to problem-solve and came up with a perfect solution, to build special wagons to assist the tribe of Levi to carry the large and heavy parts of the Mishkan. This was the way they led the people, initiating and innovating to assist the people.

Hashem, had to instruct Moshe to accept these wagons, for he would not have initiated such an invention on his own without a specific command to do so.

Moshe and the Nesi’im each reflect different style of leadership, each is integral for the functioning of the nation. They serve as a checks and balance system within the leadership. Moshe is the more rigid leader, never digressing from the command of Hashem and the Nesi’im represent the more creative leaders, who initiate and innovate. Each one alone is lacking and insufficient. “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” The people need both the unyielding voice of Moshe to insure they stay true to the will of Hashem but we also need those leaders who are flexible always intuiting and concerning themselves with ways to ease the burden of the people. Together they lead the people and are able to preserve the sanctity and survival of Am Yisrael during challenging times.

Shabbat Shalom




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