bamidbar | meditations

Naso meditation – difference in sameness

The Parsha concludes with a detailed description of the tribal leaders’ initiation offering. And after reading them carefully, it turns out that **spoiler alert** they are all identical! Why does the Torah need 11 repetitions of the same details.

We face a similar challenge with our service. For example, the “offering” of our daily Tefilla is also identical. Every member of the Jewish people has the exact same text in the Siddur repeated daily. How do we bridge the gap between the repetitive sameness and our unique personalities and circumstances?

Chazal explain that the Torah repeats the details to teach that each of the leaders gave their own meaning to their offering [1]. For example, Yehuda reflected kingship, while Yisaschar reflected Torah. Externally, they were identical, but in terms of the service of the heart each was unique.

This creates a paradigm for our own service. The story of the nesiim challenges us to personalize the meaning, even as we are saying the same words.

By changing the emphasis, tone or interpretation, the Tefillah takes on a different meaning. A possible technique for this is to imagine ourselves as different figures saying the tefilot. What would a Dan-like tefilla be as opposed to a Reuven-like Tefillah? How would Yitzchak experience “Magen Avraham” (before and after the akeda)? What does God’s “power” mean in a state of subjugation as opposed to a state of national strength? By playing different “parts” we can uncover different aspects of the text. And, the greatest challange, eventually say it as our true selves as we exist at the very moment, beyond any part.

[1] My brother Ezra gave another explanation. The Torah is teaching us a lesson in appreciation. Even though God didn’t benefit from the offerings, He gave individual recognition to each one; to teach us that we should also recognize each individual who does good for us, and not only include them in generalities.

One Comment

  1. For those who are curious the focus of each leader (according to the Midrash Rabba) was as follows:
    Yehuda – Kingship
    Yisaschar – Torah
    Zevulun – His partnership with Yisaschar
    Reuven – The story of Reuven, rescuing Yosef and repentance for his sin with Bilhah
    Shimon – The Mishkan
    Gad – Yetziat Mitzraim
    Efraim – Yaakov prioritzing him over menashe, and blessing Yosef
    Menashe – The selection of Yosef as the bechor in place of Reuven
    Binyamin – the specialness of Binyamin
    Dan – Shimshon
    Asher – The selection of Israel from the nations, moving towards redemption
    Naftali – The Avot and Imahot

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