by Rabbi Josh Warshawsky
As we make our way through the amazing drama that is our people’s history as described in the Torah, we experience every year the incredible stories of our ancestors in the book of Genesis, the miraculous Exodus from Egypt, and some compelling stories about spies, adventure, and intrigue in the desert. But sometimes we reach a Torah portion where we have just repetitions of words and phrases over and over again. The 5th, 6th, and 7th Aliyot of Parashat Naso this week detail the sacrifices brought by the chieftains on behalf of the people of Israel. And its homogeneity and repetitiveness is the epitome of the mundane!
Every day with every chieftain the Torah returns and details the whole order of the sacrifices, even though there isn’t a single change or addition. But as I’ve shared before, our teachers throughout the generations believe that in the Torah there isn’t even a single extra letter – nothing extraneous. Every word has to mean something. And it would have made more sense for the text to read: “on the second day Netanel ben Tzu’ar, chieftain of the tribe of Issachar, sacrificed the same measure of sacrifices as did Nachson ben Aminadav.” And so on the third and fourth days etc.
However, the Torah comes to teach us that no chieftain imitated the actions of his fellow who came the day before. Rather, even though outwardly it looks like the same exact sacrifice, each and every chieftain came with his own awakened intention and inner drive. And that is why the Torah specifies and details each individual sacrifice, each one unique from its fellow.
Even if we feel that what we don’t have anything to offer to our community, or that what we have to offer is just the same as the next person, the fact is that your individual presence matters. Your individual gift matters. Your individual soul and spirit is what is important. This Shabbat will be my last of a really wonderful year of monthly residencies at Beth El. So as we join together on the lake and at Beth El, I hope to share your presence, to sing out and pray together and bring our individual gifts to this community together.
Thanks for a wonderful year and hope to see you soon