Parsha Nasso is the longest one in the Torah. It includes the dedication of the Tabernacle by the twelve tribes of Israel, listing the offerings each tribal leader brings in great detail. But they all bring the exact same gifts! The Torah is famously terse, containing no extra word or even letter. So why doesn’t it simply say, “The twelve tribes brought the following gifts..”?
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky explains this with a story. A well-known American rabbi was invited to South Africa to speak to two different congregations in cities that were many miles apart. He worked hard to prepare an exceptional lecture and planned to deliver it in both locations. The rabbi was very pleased when the first night’s lecture was a big hit. The audience was rapt throughout the entire speech, and afterwards many people approached the rabbi to tell him how meaningful his words were to them.
The second night, however, as the rabbi approached the podium to deliver his lecture, he was dismayed to see many familiar faces from the night before! Realizing that he couldn’t give the same speech they’d already heard, he cobbled something together on the fly, using parts of different lectures he’d delivered in the past. Not surprisingly, this speech was received with markedly less enthusiasm then the one on which he’d worked so diligently. After the lecture, the rabbi approached the people who’d been there the first night and apologized for delivering a speech so inferior to the previous one. He explained that once he saw them there, he knew he couldn’t deliver the same lecture and had to speak extemporaneously. “But Rabbi,” they told him. “We loved your speech so much that we came to hear it again!”
Rabbi Kamenetzky concludes, “The Torah, in repeating the twelve offerings… leaves us with a message that is as powerful as it is pertinent. Many of our deeds are repeats of generations passed. Many are repeats of yesterday…[but if they are performed with fresh purpose and intentionality each time], they are all beloved and cherished. Day after day after day.”
Image: Jerusalem mosaic depicting the 12 tribes of Israel