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Naso: The Spirit Within. June 15, 2019

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

 

יג וְקָרְבָּנוֹ קַעֲרַת-כֶּסֶף אַחַת שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמֵאָה מִשְׁקָלָהּ מִזְרָק אֶחָד כֶּסֶף שִׁבְעִים שֶׁקֶל בְּשֶׁקֶל הַקֹּדֶשׁ שְׁנֵיהֶם מְלֵאִים סֹלֶת בְּלוּלָה בַשֶּׁמֶן לְמִנְחָה. יד כַּף אַחַת עֲשָׂרָה זָהָב מְלֵאָה קְטֹרֶת. טו פַּר אֶחָד בֶּן-בָּקָר אַיִל אֶחָד כֶּבֶשׂ-אֶחָד בֶּן-שְׁנָתוֹ לְעֹלָה. טז שְׂעִיר-עִזִּים אֶחָד לְחַטָּאת. יז וּלְזֶבַח הַשְּׁלָמִים בָּקָר שְׁנַיִם אֵילִם חֲמִשָּׁה עַתּוּדִים חֲמִשָּׁה כְּבָשִׂים בְּנֵי-שָׁנָה חֲמִשָּׁה

 

"His offering: one silver bowl weighing 130 shekels and one silver basin of 70 shekels by the sanctuary weight, both filled with choice flour with oil mixed in, for a meal offering; one gold ladle of 10 shekels, filled with incense; one bull of the herd, one ram, one lamb in its first year, for a burnt offering; one goat for a sin offering; and for his sacrifice of well-being; two oxen, five rams, five he-goats and five yearling lambs." [Numbers 7:13-17]

 

Consider:                  

 

The final section of the portion is a litany of gifts brought for the dedication of the ancient desert sanctuary. It is a lengthy recounting (76 verses!) of the dedicatory offerings. The gifts brought by the princes of each tribe are recounted in detail, and each is identical.

As the ever-shortening sound bites of television news attest, modern readers have little patience for this kind of duplication. If every word of the Torah has meaning, why should it devote so many verses to the same thing – the same identical offering, brought by each of the tribal heads – over and over again? …

 

A midrash offers an alternative explanation, could it be that although the gifts appear the same, there was something different about each one? The midrash suggests that there was one critical difference in each prince’s offering brought to the tabernacle. Each prince had a different motivation for bringing the gift. Each prince had endowed his gift with a meaning that was unique to him and to his needs at that moment. [Bamidbar Rabba 13:14-14:18]

True the outward form of practice was indistinguishable, one from the other. But, for each prince, the meaning was wholly and completely unique. Commentators through the years have attempted to describe what the meaning of each gift was for each particular prince. There is one theme that appears throughout these explanations: within each gift, each prince brought something of his own history and aspirations. …

The Torah portion suggests that we may not need to search for a men’s spirituality that was lost and in need of being redeemed or a spirituality that is new and in need of being created.

Rather, it may be that in the traditional forms of service – Torah, avoda (worship) and gemilut chasadim (acts of kindness) – are all we need. To the casual observer, it may seem that traditional rituals, practices, and opportunities for participation only present us with a dull sameness, year after year. Yet, if we endow each moment, each ritual, each opportunity with our unique history and our unique hopes and dreams, then each Jewish act becomes a real gift.

 

 

We don’t need sweat lodges or “sacred screaming.” What we need is to put some sweat into bestowing the gifts we bring to our Jewish community with the most precious gift we have to offer - ourselves. The sacred is not to be found in the appearance of the act of spirituality, but in the spirit we bring to the act. [The Modern Men’s Torah Commentary; Rabbi J. Salkin ed, “Naso” by Rabbi Elliot Kleinman; Jewish Lights Publishing, p. 206-7]

 

 

Think About It:

 

1. Why do you think the Torah repeats the account of the gifts of the princes all 12 times? Why does the liturgy repeat itself so much?

2. If the gifts were not unique, then what was so unique that each one was repeated so many times?

3. Where does spirituality come from? Is it different for men and women?

 

 

Teaching:  

 

When the Kotzker Rebbe was five years old, he asked his father “Where is God?” to which his father answered, “God is everywhere!” The young boy then corrected his father by saying “No, I think God is only where you let Him in.”

 

 

Sermon given by Rabbi Randall Konigsburg at Beth Sholom B’nai Israel on Saturday, June 15, 2019.

Fri, July 10 2020 18 Tammuz 5780