June 15 | Nasso
June 22 | Beha’alotcha
A salesman walked into his manager’s office first thing in the morning to chat. Deciding to use this encounter as a teaching moment, the manager said, “The main thing to remember is that repetition, repetition, repetition is the key. If you have a product to sell, keep harping on it in every possible way, cram it down people’s throats and beat them over the head with it! Above all, don’t ever forget to repeat and repeat and repeat,” exclaimed the manager.
“Yes, sir!” the salesman answered.
“And now, what was it you came in to see me about?” the manager asked.
The salesman replied, “A raise! A raise! A raise!”
The Torah’s longest parsha, Nasso, will be read this Shabbos. It’s length is not due to novel content, rather an exhaustive list of the gifts brought by the leaders of each tribe to celebrate the completion of the Mishkan. The Torah lists in detail the gifts each prince brought in honor of this auspicious occasion (7:12-83). What is striking is each of the princes brought the identical offering and, nevertheless, the Torah – which is famously terse with its wording – lists each of them in a separate paragraph. Why all the repetition?
In his classical commentary,
13th-century scholar Ramban, also known as Nachmanides, suggests although each leader brought the identical offering, the gift was unique and distinct, representing the individualized mission of the particular tribe. For example, when Nachshon ben Aminadav brought the silver bowl on behalf of Shevet Yehuda, it symbolized the seas, which surround the world like a bowl, as Shlomo Ha-Melech, a member of that tribe, would eventually rule over land and sea. However, when Netanel ben Tzuar brought an identical silver bowl on behalf of the Shevet Yissachar, it represented Torah – symbolized by bread placed in a bowl – whose study is exemplified by the members of that tribe. What emerges is that despite their overarching commonality, no two offerings were alike because each gift was defined by the unique intent of the particular prince who offered it.
This thought has ramifications in many aspects of our religious lives. It is particularly resonant in the realm of prayer. The fixed siddur text may seem to indicate a lack individuality or personal meaning. However, just as the tribal leaders all brought the same gifts with their own particular meaning, so too, even as we all recite similar text, each of us can relate those prayers to our particular needs and circumstances. Some ask for good health and the recovery of a family member, others beg for improvement in their financial situation and still others plead for the situation in Israel to improve. Let us, with proper concentration and intent, truly bring our very own offering.
Rabbi David Claman is rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Sholom in Bexley.