Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
e-mail yosil@MNSi.net

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Bamidbar (Numbers) 4:21-7:89
Haftorah - Judges 13:2-25

Are we robots that perform Hashem's will as demanded, or are we individuals, with the unique ability to leave our mark on the world that we influence?

Often times we observe in ourselves and others that a little bit of our individuality is diminished when we take on more and more obligations in the pursuit of spirituality. Life appears to take on a repetitive nature, every day the same prayers, the same routine, the same choices. Yet, we all believe that our lives become enriched and our individual personalities flower - becoming more refined, purer and more intense.

Usually the Torah does not devote an entire chapter to straight repetition.
Our Parsha this week describes the offerings of the princes of the tribes (7:12-88). The princes of each tribe contributed identical offerings for the dedication of the Mizbayach (the holy Altar). The Talmud relates an embarrassing situation for the princes. When contributions were being collected for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the princes decided not to make any specific contributions until all contributions were tallied. Then, they would collectively make up the difference between what was offered and what was actually needed. But to their surprise, the Israelites donated more than enough gold, silver, copper, lumber, skins and sundry materials, that no additional goods were needed from the tribal princes. To save face, they were allowed to make up the offerings for the dedication of the Mizbayach.

The Torah states (Bamidbar 7 10-1 7): "Then the princes brought forward offerings for the dedication of the Mizbayach on the day it was anointed, and the princes brought their offering before the Mizbayach. Hashem said to Moshe, ‘One prince each day, one prince each day, they shall bring their offering for the dedication of the Mizbayach.
"The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nachshon, son of Aminadav, of the tribe of Yehudah (Judah).
His offering was one silver bowl weighing a hundred and thirty and a silver basin of seventy shekels of the sacred shekel, both of them filled with fine flour mixed with oil for a meal offering; one gold ladle of ten [shekels] filled with incense; one young bull, one ram, one sheep in its first year for an elevation-offering; one he-goat for a sin-offering; and for a feast peace -offering: two cattle, five rams, five he-goats, five sheep in their first year. This was the offering of Nachshon, son of Aminadav."

And so it was with:
Netanel, son of Zuar, prince of Yissachar; and
Eliav, son of Chelon, prince of Zevulun; and
Elitzur, son of Sh'day'ur, prince of Re'uven; and
Shlumiel, son of Tzurishadai, prince of Shimon; and
Eliasaf, son of De'uel, prince of Gad; and
Elishama, son of Amihud, prince of Efrayim; and
Gamliel, son of Pedahtzur, prince of Menashe; and
Avidan, son of Gidoni, prince of Benyamin; and
Achiezer, son of Amishadai, prince of Dan; and
Pagiel, son of Achran, prince of Asher;
and finally on the twelfth day,
Achira, son of Einan, prince of Naftali.

Rather than telling us that each prince brought the same offerings, this information is repeated twelve times until all twelve princes and their identical offerings are mentioned. The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 13 and 14) teaches us two very unique concepts about these twelve identical princely offerings.

First, Hashem relishes each and every offering. The fact that the offerings were repeated did not bore Hashem, rather, Hashem savors each and every offering, prayer and supplication regardless of how similar they may be to each other.

Second, each prince embodied the character of their tribe and expressed a unique way of serving Hashem. When Nachshon, the prince of Yehudah brought his offering, it infused the majestic character of Yehudah. Similarly, when Netanel, prince of Yissachar brought his offering, it was imbued with the spiritual leadership that Yissachar always contributed to the personality of Israel. Achiezer, prince of Dan contributed the aspect of judgment that distinguished Dan's place in the undivided community of Israel. Each tribal prince passed on the uniqueness of their tribe through an offering that appeared to be exactly the same as the others.

Back to our original question, are we individuals, with the unique ability to leave our mark on the world that we influence? Our Parsha answers the question with an emphatic YES. Each person has a uniqueness that is imbued in his/her service to Hashem. Knowing this, though our prayers, blessings and offerings that may resemble the prayers, blessings and offerings of others, they convey our own very special qualities and character that is received by Hashem as uniquely original.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig

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