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Naso 5782

June 6, 2022

Rabbi Geier


BS"D || Rabbi Geier

Naso 5782

How many of us are grateful to those around us? I suppose everyone would say that they are… But, let's see: how many of us are grateful, for example, for our employees? How many of us express that gratitude? I mean the employee in your company, in your business, in your home. And I'm not talking about the act of payment—that is clearly what we must do. I mean to say THANK YOU. Express how grateful we are for the well-being that we have in our lives also thanks to them...

Within our Parashat Naso, there are two moments that I like to take as an illustration of how we should conduct ourselves with those around us in one way or another.

The first moment is right at the beginning of the parashah.

נָשֹׂ֗א אֶת־רֹ֛אשׁ בְּנֵ֥י גֵרְשׁ֖וֹן גַּם־הֵ֑ם לְבֵ֥ית" אֲבֹתָ֖ם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָֽם"‒

"You must censor the heads of the Guershonites." 

It's another census. But strangely, the word used for that action is laset, which means "to raise". It would be then that at the moment of counting them, you must raise them above that condition of number that every census or poll puts people in.

And, for those ancient times, that was an important improvement. Actually, so it would be in our days, when we are more like mere numbers than ever in marketing studies, in voting, in any type of statistics. But if we remember, for instance, the episode in which Moshe takes the life of an Egyptian guard, the Torah barely mentions the fact of his death. The text never shows us that anyone grieved for him or that his life was claimed to Moshe. He was hardly mentioned by his fellow Hebrews who were fighting among themselves and whom Moshe separated, when they asked Moshe if he would do with them the same thing he had done with the dead Egyptian—after which, the future leader fled to the desert for fear of being persecuted.

There is a certain aroma of the Tower of Babel in this ignoring of a life taken and in the lack of attention to this fact—which the act of raising the heads of those registered, elevating them to above the numerical level, gives us the pattern of an attitude that we must pursue.

The second moment is precisely when, during this very long parashah (the longest in the entire Torah), the offering that each tribe had to bring to the altar to celebrate its inauguration is described.

Strangely, there is a detailed description of every offering when mentioning each one of the tribes; the offerings were identical and yet we repeat the text of the offering 12 times, only changing the name of the tribe that had its turn. Why so? Wasn't it simpler to mention the offerings and add that each tribe, when appropriate, would bring it forward?

The twelve leaders, each representing their tribe, jointly donated six carts and twelve oxen for the transportation of the Mishkan and its contents.

Rabbi Shmuel Avigdor HaCohen (z"l) writes in his work "Likrat Shabbat:"

There is no doubt that the offerings brought by each of the tribal leaders are identical. Each one brings the same sacrifices and the same elements. However, although the offerings and sacrifices were the same, the intentions and experiences of each leader were not identical. The thoughts of human beings are not the same and their particular experiences vary from person to person, even if the mechanical act perpetrated is the same.

Perhaps this is what the Torah comes to teach us in Parashat Naso. Yes. The technical details of each offering were the same but the feeling, the intention and the experience behind each one is particular to each leader. For this reason, each of them deserved a full description of their offering. (Likrat Shabbat, 147)

Rabbi Avigdor HaCohen's exegesis is moving and revealing. Although the materials, the measurements of each offering are precisely the same, the spiritual and emotional dimension involved in its presentation is a unique experience for every one of those involved.

What we may initially perceive as redundancy is, in fact, an effort to honor each of the leaders of the various tribes.

Elevate and highlight individualities, the differences, and take them into account even for the simplest and most day-to-day things, understanding that these differences identify us. To each of us and to the others. To those with whom it is difficult for us to interact and exchange ideas or proposals.

Perhaps if we were able to laset, lift the faces and heads of these people, then those differences would have a higher value for us and we would be able to communicate and build together, thankful that those moments of interaction will be fruitful for everyone.

The essence is not simply what is given or what is done; rather, it is how it is given and how it is done.

The text gives us remazim, clear clues that lead us to reflect on the requirements that allow a community to rise towards moral values ​​and be part of a spirituality process. Our ancestors were achieving it little by little in their preparation in the desert.

This can only be possible when each member of the Community responsibly faces their task, when each one has accepted their personalized function, not just as an imposed burden or as a good and distinguished way to be present or even to never be so, but as part of a committed group of people who feel inspired to act and work towards the achievement of common goals.

God willing, we will achieve that elevation, that inspiration and that commitment.

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