• Gabbai

Parshat Naso

The least striking element in this week’s Parsha is in fact the most striking. When the Princes of the tribes line up to offer their gifts upon the dedication of the Mishkan, G-d instructs that they each bring their gift on a different day. 12 gifts over 12 days. The first tribe is Judah, of course. His gift consisted of:

  1. One silver bowl – 130 shekels its weight – containing flour mixed with oil for a meal offering

  2. One silver basin – its weight 70 shekels – containing flour mixed with oil for a meal offering

  3. One golden ladle – its weight 10 shekels – filled with incense

  4. One yearling bull, one ram and one yearling sheep – as an elevation offering

  5. One goat – for a sin offering

  6. 2 heads of cattle, 5 rams, 5 goats and 5 yearling sheep – as peace offerings

The next day the tribe of Simon had its turn, and its offering was identical to that of the tribe of Judah, word for word description. The next day the third tribe approached, and – you guessed it – its offering was identical to its predecessors. The list goes on, 12 paragraphs long, each paragraph detailing precisely the same offering, with no change except for the name of the tribe and its prince.

Of course there are numerous explanations offered by the commentaries to answer the glaring question of why the Torah need repeat itself, with all the detail, when it should have sufficed to write it once and put ditto marks for the rest.

All of the explanations have merit, and some beautiful ideas are expressed as a result of this challenge in the text of the Torah. I just want to focus on one idea.

A popular explanation is The Ramban’s, in his second explanation. He notes that although technically each gift was the same, they were in fact very different from one another. The physical gifts were identical, but the trappings of the offerings were really only the wrappings of the gifts. The actual gift was the desire of the tribe to participate in the dedication of the Mishkan. The particulars and details of the gift were the tokens, the lacing and the bow that enveloped the expression of goodwill.

Now, if the essence of a gift is the goodwill and intent of the giver, it will invariably differ based on the benefactor and beneficiary. The great Roman Philosopher Seneca, attributes much of the weight of a benefit to t