‘Somebody to Love’ Parashat Naso 5780

Parashat Naso is the longest portion in the entire Torah, containing one hundred and seventy six verses. One could argue that the numbers don’t really tell the whole story because sixty six of those verses add very little information. The verses in question concern the offerings donated by the Princes of the Tribes at the consecration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

The first prince to make a donation was Nach’shon the son of Aminadav, the Prince of the Tribe of Judah, who donated the following [Bemidbar 7:19-23]: “One silver bowl weighing one hundred and thirty shekels and one silver basin of seventy shekels by the sanctuary weight, both filled with choice flour with oil mixed in, for a meal offering; one gold ladle of ten shekels, filled with incense; one bull of the herd, one ram, and one lamb in its first year for a burnt offering; one goat for a sin offering; and for his sacrifice of well-being (shelamim): two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five yearling lambs.”

On the next day came Netanel the son of Tzuar, the Prince of the Tribe of Issachar, who donated the exact same thing, as did all of the other princes. For each and every prince – and there were twelve princes, one for each tribe – the Torah repeats these five verses verbatim[1]. CTL-C CTL-V. Eleven times. Why doesn’t the Torah just describe the offering of the first prince and then tell us that all the other princes offered the exact same thing? Weren’t we taught that the Torah does not mince words, that every word in the Torah has meaning?

The Ramban, who lived in Spain and in Israel in the thirteenth century, suggests that the reason the Torah repeats all of the offerings is to offer deference to each of the princes. Since it was impossible for all of the princes to be the first one to bring an offering, each prince was given his own day to bring his own offering, which is described in the same amount of detail as the offering that preceded him.

Here is where things become a little bit bizarre. While reviewing the Torah portion in preparation for this lesson, I came across something written by Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, who lived  in the late eighteenth century in the Ukraine[2]. Rabbi Nachman states that a person who is having difficulty finding a spouse should regularly recite the donations of the princes in Parashat Naso and this will help this person find his or her intended. Rabbi Nachman explains the mechanics behind this trick: The Talmud in Tractate Sotah teaches that the difficulty of finding a soulmate is equal to the difficulty of parting the Reed Sea (Yam Suf). Because of the link between parting the sea and finding a partner, some people have the custom of reciting the Shirat HaYam (Song on the Sea)[3] [Shemot 15:1-21] as a segulah (charm) for finding a soulmate. Rabbi Nachman then directs our attention to our Sages in the Midrash [Vayikra Raba 8:3] who teach that “the offerings of the princes were as precious to G-d as the Shirat HaYam sung by the Jewish People on the sea”. Using the transitive rule of charms, where if A=B and B=C then A=C, he concludes that reciting the offerings of the princes is equally beneficial for finding a spouse.

How are we meant to understand Rav Nachman’s innovation? When we recite the donations of the Princes, are we pushing some metaphysical buttons that somehow make two people fall forever in love? And if the donations of the Princes are metaphysically similar to the splitting of the sea, why not just recite the splitting of the sea? That seems to make a lot more sense: If G-d can split an entire sea long enough to let the Jewish People pass through and then make the waters return just in time to drown every last Egyptian, He can certainly find me somebody to love.

I suggest that in order to understand Rav Nachman, we must return to the commentary of the Ramban. The Ramban, it turns out, brings a second explanation as to why the donation of every single prince is repeated verbatim. The Ramban posits that each of the Princes of the Tribes independently decided to bring identical donations, albeit for completely different reasons and completely different intentions. Rabbi Joshua Rapps summarizes[4] the Ramban’s explanation by writing, “Each tribe had a separate identity and unique talents and strengths… Together, they comprised the complete spectrum of color, which in total made up Klal Yisrael (the Whole of Israel). Though externally all the elders brought the same korban (sacrifice), each was as important and unique as the flag of the tribe that offered it”.

The Ramban’s source undoubtedly comes from our Sages in the Midrash [Midrash Raba Naso 13,14]. The Midrash describes at length how each prince made donations that alluded to his particular tribe[5]. For instance, the Tribe of Judah was destined to rule over Israel, as Jacob blessed Judah with the words [Bereishit 49:10] “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, Nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet”. Hence, each of the gifts donated by the Prince of the Tribe of Judah pertained to the monarchy, specifically, to the future Davidic monarchy. For instance, the gold ladle of ten shekels represented the ten generations between Peretz, the son of Judah, and King David. The bowls both filled with choice flour represented the grain offerings that would one day be brought to King Solomon by other rulers.

The Prince of the Tribe of Gad donated offerings that represented the story of the Egyptian exodus[6]. When he donated one silver bowl weighing one hundred and thirty shekels, he was alluding to the age of Moshe’s mother, Yocheved, when Moshe was born. The silver basin of seventy shekels represented the seventy elders that would be appointed by Moshe.

The Tribe of Shimon offered their donations alluding to the structure of the Mishkan. And so on: The Midrash teaches why each prince had to give precisely what he gave. Nothing else would have done. The fact that each prince donated the exact same donation was a statistical anomaly. To quote Rabbi Rapps again, “Although they brought identical sacrifices and gifts, each individual’s perspective and approach was unique”.

We can now return to Rabbi Nachman. When a person is searching for his intended, after a number of failed dates and relationships he or she might feel like giving up hope: They’re all the same. CTL-C. CTL-V. There is nobody out there for me. I am alone and wasting my time. The donations of the princes ward off this kind of thinking: While two people might be outwardly similar, while their actions might seem the same, each person is driven by his own “perspective and approach”. If you take the time to look below the surface, if you look for the cause and not only for the effect, you will begin to see tectonic differences between people. Perhaps one of them sees life very similarly to the way you see it.

Now we can also understand why Rabbi Nachman presents two “charms”: the Shirat HaYam and the donations of the princes. At the Reed Sea, the Jewish People were passive. G-d told Moshe [Shemot 14:14] “G-d will do battle for you; you will be silent”. At the consecration of the Mishkan, on the other hand, the Princes of the Tribes took the impetus, bringing their gifts on their own volition. Finding a spouse, similar to finding a cure for coronavirus, requires Divine assistance, but it also requires a hefty amount of human effort. While we pray to G-d to “send a cure”, we must ensure that we keep social distancing rules and we must spend hours in the lab mapping the virus and developing and testing a vaccine. With help from Above combined with hard work from below, we pray that we will be successful.

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Sameach, and stay healthy.

Ari Sacher, Moreshet, 5780

Please daven for a Refu’a Shelema for Yechiel ben Shprintza and David ben Chaya.

[1] Each prince’s offering was preceded by a verse introducing the prince, making a total of six verses for each prince. Multiplied by twelve princes, that makes seventy-two verses.

[2] Rav Nachman lived for only thirty-eight short years, but the impact he made on Hassidism was immense, lasting to this very day.

[3] Also known as “Az Yashir”, this song was spontaneously sung by Moshe and the Jewish People after G-d rescued them from the Egyptians at the Reed Sea.

[4] As quoted in Chumash Mesoras Harav.

[5] Rabbi Chaim Yaakov Goldwicht, the Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh for nearly thirty-five years from its inception in 1954, had a special understanding of the Midrash. We used to wait for Chanukah, when, each night, the Rosh Yeshiva would offer his insights into the gifts of the princes. He was nothing less than masterful.

[6] The reason for this is beyond the scope of this lesson. Ditto for the Tribe of Shimon.

About the Author
Ari Sacher is a Rocket Scientist, and has worked in the design and development of missiles for over twenty-five years. He has briefed hundreds of US Congressmen on Israeli Missile Defense, including three briefings on Capitol Hill at the invitation of House Majority Leader. Ari is a highly requested speaker, enabling even the layman to understand the "rocket science". Ari has also been a scholar in residence in numerous synagogues in the USA, Canada, UK, South Africa, and Australia. He is a riveting speaker, using his experience in the defense industry to explain the Torah in a way that is simultaneously enlightening and entertaining. Ari came on aliya from the USA in 1982. He studied at Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh, and then spent seven years studying at the Technion. Since 2001 he has published a weekly parasha shiur that is read around the world. Ari lives in Moreshet in the Western Galil along with his wife and eight children.
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