Torah Fax
Friday, June 9, 2006 - 13 Sivan, 5766

Torah Reading: Naso (Numbers  4:21 - 7:89)
Candle Lighting Time:  8:08 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:18 PM
Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1
Repeat Performance
This week's Torah portion features the special role each of the leaders of the 12 tribes of Israel played in the dedication of the Mishkan, the portable Sanctuary. The Parshah tells us that the Mishkan was finally set up on first day of the month of Nissan at the end of the first year of the Jews' sojourn in the desert. In honor of the event, the leaders of the tribes each brought a dedication offering, one per day for 12 consecutive days. The Torah dedicates an entire paragraph to each of the princes, listing in detail all of the gifts that each prince gave.
Interestingly, the twelve individual gifts offered by the tribes' princes, which included incense, animals and utensils to be sanctified for use in the Mishkan were identical! True, each of the tribes had its own unique character and had a specific and defined spiritual source, nonetheless - the gifts they each decided to give to the Mishkan turned out to be exactly the same. Obviously, this requires an explanation. Why didn't the gifts reflect the individual characters of the 12 tribes? Why weren't their diverse roles reflected in varied offerings?
Conversely, if all twelve gifts were identical, why does the Torah list each gift individually - repeating the same narrative 12 times?! Clearly, the Torah could have said that each of the 12 leaders brought the following offering, and then list the contents of that offering once.
The answer to these two questions sheds light on the dynamic of the Jewish people. The Jewish people, are paradoxically both a unified and a multidimensional people. On the one hand, the Torah teaches us that no matter how distant (whether philosophically or emotionally) one Jew might be from his/her fellow, there remains a profound, inexplicable connection between them. History shows that, in times of crisis, Jews have risked their lives to help another, despite their inability to agree or see eye to eye during times of peace.
A story is told of a zookeeper who lost his lion. He found a poor Jew who volunteered to wear a lion's skin and play the role of the lion at his zoo for a tidy sum. Everything was going well until the Jew/lion saw a ferocious bear approaching him with a menacing look. Realizing that he was experiencing his last moments on earth, he cried out the eternal words of the Shema, "Hear O Israel, the L-rd is our G‑d the L-rd is One." Without missing a beat, the bear stopped in his tracks and responded with the second verse of the Shema, "Baruch Shem Kvod Malchuto L'Olam Vaed, Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever!"
No matter what outer appearance a Jew may have, be it a difference in language, culture, intelligence or personality, a Jew is a Jew.
On the other hand, everything in creation has a purpose. The fact that G‑d created us with different personalities and potentials is an indication that our differences are important and deliberate. To be sure, we must always be aware that behind our differences lies the aforementioned underlying unity that makes us all one. But, as long as we view our differences from that perspective, our individual talents can be appreciated and even cultivated Indeed, were we not to utilize our individual talents and capabilities, we would be "wasting" G‑d's efforts and ignoring His blessings.
This is the reason the princes of the tribes each brought an identical offering, yet the Torah took the time to record each of them individually. The leaders of the tribes appreciated the inherent unity that binds all of the Jewish people. True, they have unique qualities, but there is a unifying character that permeates throughout. Thus, though there were twelve gifts, symbolizing twelve separate spiritual powers, that individuality did not overpower the thread of unity that pervaded through all the tribes
- and therefore all of the gifts were one and the same.
Because we live in a time known as galut, or exile, which can also be translated as "alienation," we sometimes have trouble recognizing or appreciating our oneness, and we allow discord and strife to creep in where they do not belong. Conversely, we frequently ignore our individual roles under the guise of universalism, trading our "salad bowl" for a "melting pot." In the blindness of exile, we ignore our individual qualities for the sake of an imagined "unity," where all unique soul potentials are whitewashed and ignored, and we divide ourselves among imaginary separations, ignoring the thread of true unity that should unite us.
It is for this reason, among many others, that the Jewish people have yearned for the coming of Moshiach. He will usher in an age that will allow both our unity and our individuality to flourish simultaneously, and he will help us cultivate both of these paradoxical qualities so that they may work in perfect harmony.
Moshiach Matters
"From the day that I went to cheder, and even prior to that, the vision of the future Redemption began to unravel in my mind, the Redemption of the Jewish people from their final exile, a Redemption of great magnitude and beauty, through which the purpose of the suffering, the terrible decrees, persecution and oppression of the exile will be understood... and with a full heart and cognizance, we will then exclaim: 'I offer thanks to You, G‑d, that You were angry with me.'" (From a letter of the Rebbe, 11 Nissan 5716-1956)

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