Parsha Naso: How Am I Different?

| parsha reflection |

This week’s Torah portion, or parsha, is Naso, which means “take up” and refers to taking a census of the Gershonites, a clan of the Israelite tribe of Levi, who will be responsible for certain tasks in the Tabernacle, the sanctuary they can pack up and carry along with them. In our parsha, there is a long section that details the offerings brought by the chieftains of the Israelites for the dedication of the Tabernacle. Every day for 12 days, one chieftain brings his offering, and we read his name, tribe, and the details of the offering. The thing is, the offerings are exactly the same, so there are 12 paragraphs that are identical except in the names given. Why is it necessary for the Torah to repeat the same information over and over? It could have simply listed the names, stated that the offerings were given successively over the course of 12 days, and described the offering once. From a rabbinic perspective, the Torah does not simply repeat, so there must be a reason.

One possibility is that while every offering consists of the same items, it is still unique. First of all, it is brought by a different individual with his own identity. Second, though they all bring silver bowls and gold ladles that are all the same weight, they certainly didn’t have to look exactly alike. Perhaps the tribes each had distinct designs they would etch into the silver and gold, making them different from the others. After all, last week’s Torah portion said that every clan had its own flag—why not their own ways of working with silver and gold?

Every chieftain brings a bull, a ram, a lamb, a goat, two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five yearling lambs, and while they all had to be without blemish, they certainly were not identical either. We learn from this that though we all engage in many daily activities that are the same as the daily activities of many others, and though we may all sit and meditate together, each of us will bring something different to those activities, even if our actions are outwardly similar. Our inner experience is purely our own, filtered through our own experiences, opinions, and thoughts.

My kavannah, or intention, for  this week is that we contemplate what each of us brings to our daily life that is enriching to us and to others. What do we have to offer when we ride the subway, bike or drive, work at a computer, or do anything else that is different than what others have to offer? What do we have to offer ourselves as we sit? How has our individual experience informed what we have done today, and what we are about to do?

May we appreciate the gifts we have developed through our life experiences, and may we take those gifts out into the world with joy and compassion.