Drash on Parashat Naso 2018
Rabbi Adi Cohen
Twelve times the Torah repeats itself in Parashat Naso. Twelve times we read the exact same description of the chieftains offerings when the only variation is the name of the chieftain and the group he represents.
The Sages of Midrash Bamidbar Rabah felt that this repetition has a deeper meaning.
One approach claims that although the P’shat tells us that the offerings were identical, the reality was that they were similar in their size, however not in their content. Each brought the same amount of incense but the ingredients varied (Midrash Bamidbar Raba 13:14).
The second approach, reflected in the same Midrash, is that the offerings were identical however the Kavanah (intention) was different.
Sefer Bamidbar sets the foundation stones of both Jewish peoplehood and Jewish worship. As the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land, not aware at this point that it will take them another forty years, they need to set up a system of self governance. Each family and each tribe needs to assemble under their own flag, they need to induct officers of the law, and to appoint representatives of the public. In this constellation we need to understand the unique position of the chieftains. They are part of a new united nation, yet they represent the uniqueness of their tribes. They are asked to preform a similar ritual, however express their unique intention doing so.
Midrash Bamidbar Rabah is echoing a clear message. In order to become a viable and vibrant Jewish nation, we need to practice unity not unison.
Ashkenazi or Mizrahi, S’faradi or Italian, Progressive or Chabbad, modern Orthodox or Haredi. We are not called upon neither to agree nor change each other. Whether we pray with Ashkenazic pronunciation or the S’faradic one, wether we use this Siddur or that Machzor, we are called to cherish our variation and to offer our unique intentions in our special way, side by side, as K’lal Israel.
In unity not in unison. Alike, not the same.
“May our courage match our convictions, and our integrity match our hope.
May our faith in you bring us closer to each other” (Siddur Mishkan T’filah pg. 620).