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D’var Torah: Parashat Naso

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Upon the dedication of a new altar in the Temple, why do the Nesiim make identical, rather than individual offerings to Hashem? An interesting lesson emerges from the Torah’s longest parasha, teaches the Chief Rabbi. You can find the full transcript below.

Nearly every single year, the Parasha of Naso is read on the Shabbat immediately following the festival of Shavuot.  You will notice in Shul this Shabbat that Naso is clearly the longest of all our parshiot. And it is important. Immediately after the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, we want to show that no amount of Torah is too long for us to listen to, to pay attention to, and to internalise the messages therefrom.

But actually if there is a Barmitzvah this Shabbat, you don’t have to feel too sorry for the Barmitzvah boy, because three out of the seven columns of the parasha are pure repetition. Why is that the case?

‘We want to show that no amount of Torah is too long for us to listen to, to pay attention to’

In that section we read about the bringing of the korbanot, the sacrifices, by the Nesiim, the heads of the tribes, immediately following the dedication of the altar. And each one brought the identical offering, hence the repetition.

The Midrash tells us that it was actually the Nasi on the second day of the sacrificial order – he was Natanel, the son of Tzuar, of the Tribe of Yissakhar, who was the hero of this passage. Why is that the case?

On the first day Nachshon, the son of Aminadav of the Tribe of Yehuda brought his offering. On the second day all eyes were on Netanel. What was he going to bring? How would he bring something more spectacular, even better than the first day’s offering?

Netanel realised that if he would do something in that vein, then on the third day the Nasi would try to even better what he had done and so on. Consequently he decided that he would bring the identical sacrifice, and therefore we read all twelve paragraphs, and they are exactly the same.

‘We read all twelve paragraphs, and they are exactly the same’

There is a powerful message that emerges from this text. So often we find – for example when it comes to personal events, family simchas – we are looking all around to think ‘What do others think about our private event?’

As a result, so many families engage in totally unnecessary expenditure because they are trying to do better than others. From the Parasha of Naso we learn that it’s crucially important that we do what is right, and indeed when it comes to communal affairs, one upmanship should have absolutely no place in our midst.