Gustavo Surazski
Gustavo Surazski

Parashat HaShavua Naso: To Be an Adjective

According to our Sages, Nachshon Ben Aminadav was the first to leap into the water at the time of the parting of the Red Sea, and according to that same Midrash, we refer to all those who jump first into a dangerous and important mission by the name “Nachshonim”, in memory of Nachshon Ben Aminadav.

Unintentionally, Nachshon Ben Aminadav changed his first name into an adjective… a rare and special accomplishment.

If we listen to a Socratic style philosopher, or to a psychologist with a Freudian approach, or a playwright in the Shakespearean style, this linguistic phenomenon does not speak only of the philosopher, the psychologist or the playwright, but of the individual who contributed his name (to the dictionary) and converted it to an adjective.

This same individual who converted his name to an adjective left behind, not incidentally, his imprint on the world. Nevertheless, it is fitting to note that the influences are not necessarily positive ones (to say that a politician has a Hitlerian world concept is not a great compliment). However, Nachshon ben Aminadav, on the basis of his pioneering action, without a doubt a positive action, converted his name to an adjective.

Parashat Nasso is the longest section in the Torah, with 176 verses. However, if we closely inspect the verses, we discover that many of the verses repeat themselves over and over. The twelve princes of the tribes presented, one after the other over a period of twelve days, their offerings for the Mishkan upon the completion of its construction. Twelve times the Torah repeats the giving of the offerings, word for word – changing only the name of the giver.

Nachshon ben Aminadav , the leader of the tribe of Judah, gave his offering on the first day. However, Nachshon ben Aminadav is not called “Nassi” (prince). He is the only one among all of the twelve princes who is not referred to by title but solely by his full name. (“And he that presented his offering the first day was Nachshon the son Aminadav, of the tribe of Judah” (Bemidbar 7:12).

What happened here? Why is this?

There are those who are always referred to with their titles preceding their names (Dr. So-and-so,  Professor …. , etc.) But there are those who do not attach titles. They do not require them.

An interesting example is that of Moses our Rabbi. All of the other Rabbi’s names are preceded by their title: Rabbi Akiva, Rabban Gamliel, our Rabbenu Tam.

With Moses it is different. He is not “our Rabbi Moses” (Rabbenu Moshe) rather Moses, our Rabbi (Moshe Rabbenu).


For the simple reason that his name was greater than his title. He was worthy of admiration and honor because he was Moses, not because of he was a Rabbi.

There is a similarity in what happened with Nachshon ben Aminadav…if you are Nachshon, you do not require a title. Your name says it all. Your name rises above any title. Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai speaks in the Mishna of “three crowns” or titles of leadership that the Torah requires us to treat with respect.

The “three crowns” are: the crown of Torah, the crown of Cohanim (Priesthood) and the crown of kingdom. But he emphasizes that there is an additional crown, the crown of a good name, which rises above them all (Avot 4, Mishna 13).

We can recognize a person by his title. He is a King, a Rabbi or a Cohen. He is a doctor, a professor or a judge. Yet there is no crown that rises above the crown of a good name. If you have a good name, not title is necessary.



About the Author
Rabbi Gustavo Surazski is the Rabbi at Kehillat Netzach Israel, the Masorti (Conservative) congregation in Ashkelon.
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