Torah Quiz Time: Which is the longest single sedrah in the Torah? You guessed correctly. It is the sedrah we read this week: Naso, the second of the parshiyot in the Book of Bamidbar–Numbers. It contains many interesting subjects including the laws of the Nazir (one who vows to abstain from certain acts and practices), the laws of the Sotah (a practice designed to maintain peace in the home where infidelity is suspected), the extremely famous Birkat Kohanim — “Priestly Blessing,” an impressive dedication of the Mishkan and more!
In reading Naso, it is beyond curious that the recital of the dedication gifts of the princes of each of the Tribes goes on in repetitive fashion, in excruciating detail for pages. Bamidbar, Chapter 7:10-88. Each gift is identical. Nobody brought more than anyone else or tried to show anyone else up. Since we know of the Torah as being extremely spare and economical with descriptive words, one wonders why the Torah would not simply say that each of the 12 princes brought the following gift….. and just say it once.
This is a very good Parasha for a bar mitzvah celebrant to leyn because the same paragraph repeats itself 12 times! I should know because this is the anniversary of my bar mitzvah! How come nobody asked me to leyn?
The Sages teach us several lessons from the princes’ gifts. Here are a few:
1) the gift that each individual brings or gives as service to our People, to Israel or to our community is individually and separately precious to God. Each gift is special because of the intention of the donor,
2) that in doing the right thing, it is not about competition. Climbing the ladder of success can be done without stepping on anyone else’s head,
3) emulating the worthy examples of good people is not cheap copycatting, but a statement of praise, honor and support—“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” –Charles Caleb Colton
It is human nature to be competitive and try and out do your neighbor. Yet, no prince tried to outdo the other. Instead, each acted out of total humility and respect for others. So important are these values that the Torah spends columns making an example of these virtuous individuals and their exemplary behavior.
This Shabbat at Adat Shalom, we are privileged to learn with education professional Andrew Pass. He states that, “we are going to discuss the concept of Kedusha, Birkat Kohanim and the role of Kohanim in Rabbinic tradition.” He adds that “ It’ll be particularly interesting for any Star Wars fans.” I am bringing my light sabre, just in case.
We begin at 9:45 and end in time for the Rabbi’s Drasha. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.