Rabbis have a full-time job explaining the mysteries of the Bible to those studying it.
The Bible has a lot of mysteries to seemingly straight forward stories, which require many years of study to understand all of its mysteries.
Rabbis have been studying the Bible and Talmud for now 3332 years and we are just scratching the surface of the mysteries.
One of the major principals of the Bible is that every word is chosen and there is not a single word that is superfluous. From this principle, conclusions are drawn from even an extra “a” or “the”.
Since that is a major principle, you can imagine the surprise when the longest reading from the Torah (Bible) in the synagogue last week (called Parsha Nasso), has 12 repetitions of the same story of each of the leaders of the tribes (12 of them) bringing the same gift. If the gift was all the same why not list it once and then say ditto for each tribe. Many individual lessons are learned from the major exception to the rule, that is not apparent without the Rabbi’s teaching.
The first and most important lesson that the Rabbis say we are taught, is that every person is an individual and G-d needs each and every person. Although the gift was the same, the person bringing it is an individual and that makes the gift unique.
A much more subtle lesson is learned from the order that the tribes brought the gifts. If there had only been a ditto, we would not have learned from the order of how the tribes brought the gifts, which was not according to their place of birth or order of importance.
It would have been natural for the tribe of Reuven to offer their gift on the second day, as the
The oldest son among them, and then continue according to the chronological order of the founders of each tribe.
Rashi (our most important commentator on the Torah and one of our greatest explainer of mysteries of the Bible) says that Reuven, in fact, assumed that he was next, and Moses had to inform him that they were going to use a different order
We still have to wonder why the Torah dismissed the chronological order and substituted the marching order. I believe that the reason is that if the leaders would have brought their offerings according to the birth order, it would have been the tribe of Menashe whose turn would fall out on Shabbat.
By using the marching order of the tribes, it was the tribe of Ephraim who brought his gift on Shabbat. Of Yosef’s two sons (who became two separate tribes), Menashe is identified with worldly affairs, of helping his father in his position by administrating Yosef’s household. His brother Ephraim, however, is identified with the Torah study.
Now, generally, only gifts offered for the entire community override the laws of Shabbat. The offerings of individuals may not be brought on Shabbat, because they don’t override those laws. Ephraim’s gift was an exception to the rule. The Torah wished to make a point. For Ephraim, the Torah would grant some license to violate Shabbat– but not for Menashe. The reason is fairly simple. Exceptions to halachic rules are dangerous. We have experienced that during the lockdown the synagogues were closed, for the first time in our lifetimes. A variety of new norms and halachic rules were quickly established including praying along with the Radio instead of with a minyan.
People have a tendency to take those exceptions and run with them. They irresponsibly turn exceptions into rules, applying them where they were not meant to apply. The talmid chacham / Ephraim-type can be trusted to understand the grounds for the exception, and not to wrongly apply it elsewhere. The Menashe-type, however, cannot be given extra license, because it might be misused.
This is the meaning generally of the familiar verse from the haftorah of Shabbos Shuva, “Hashem’s ways are straight. The righteous walk in them and sinners will stumble over them.” (Hoshea 14:10) Some actions are appropriate and proper for a righteous talmid chacham, but sinful for someone else.
Hashem’s ways are straight, but we need the Rabbis to explain the nuances.
Since we wrote about G-d, let’s hear another story about G-d
A New Beginning
It happened, somewhere off in the future that a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell Him that they were done with Him.
The scientist walked up to God and said, “God, we’ve decided that we no longer need you. We’re to the point that we can clone people and do many miraculous things, so why don’t you just go on and get lost.”
God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, “Very well, how about this? Let’s say we have a man-making contest.”
To which the scientist replied, “Okay, great!”
But God added, “Now, we’re going to do this just like I did back in the old days with Adam.”
The scientist said, “Sure, no problem” and bent down and grabbed himself a handful of dirt.
God looked at him and said, “No, no, no. You go get your own dirt!”