This week, we read the longest Parsha in the Torah containing 176 verses. (It is interesting to note that the longest tractate in Talmud Bava Basra also has 176 pages and the longest chapter in Tanach being Tehilim (Psalms) 119 also has 176 verses.)
Long as it may be, there seems to be a great deal of repetition involved. We read about the
Nesiim – princes and their offerings at the inauguration of the Mishkan. Each prince brought his offering on a separate day, yet each one brought the same as the other.
“The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nachshon son of Aminadav, of the tribe of Yehuda” (7:12) Nachshon is the only leader who is listed without his title of “Nasi. The Chizkuni explains that since Nachshon was the first to bring his sacrifices, the Torah does not mention him with his title so that he should not feel haughty because of his precedence. Another explanation is that Nachshon’s greatness was in his great act of sacrifice by the Yam Suf when he jumped into the raging waters of the sea. He did not need a special title to be a great person.
This is an important lesson.
Many people are special people even if they do not hold a special position or have a special title. Their greatness is in their character, not their position. The Gemara writes that the great sage Hillel was no called Rabbi Hillel because he did not need a special title to express his greatness to the people. Everyone knew what a great person he was because of his personality.
There is a fascinating Midrash that relates that the Nasi from Yehudah, was the first tribe to make an offering, and he had it easy. He could offer whatever he desired. The second Nasi –
Netanel ben Tzuar of the Tribe of Yissachar, however, was faced with a dilemma of what to bring?
Imagine there are to be 12 Bar Mitzvahs in synagogue, one week after the other. The first Bar Mitzvah serves a tasty main course of roasted chicken, potatoes and carrots and a fantastic cake for dessert. The next week there is another Bar Mitzvah, Week 2. What does he serve? Should he serve the same dish? Roast chicken, special cake for dessert? Definitely not! They do not want to look like they copied the first one, especially when they have an image to keep up as ‘original’ people. They decide to offer a delicious roast beef together with ice delicacies for dessert. The third guy has to improve upon the previous two and offer lamb. Imagine how hard it will be for the 12th to outperform all his predecessors.
The Midrash says that this is what went through the mind of Netanel ben Tzuar: If I try to do different than the Tribe of Yehudah, if I try to ‘one up’ Nachshon ben Aminadav, then the Nasi after me and the Nasi after him will face a spiral of escalating sacrifices, escalating costs, until day 12.
Imagine what the Nasi will have to bring by then! Netanel ben Tzuar reasoned as follows: We know our own nature. Everyone will argue that his offering was better. This will lead to Lashon Hara, hatred, and jealousy. So, Netanel ben Tzuar did a tremendous thing. He brought exactly the same offering.
He set the tone that everyone is the same.
What was G-d’s response? The Midrash says an unbelievable thing… There is a rule that a public offering can override Shabbat prohibitions, but a private offering cannot. No individual offering is ever brought on the Sabbath. If that is true, the sequence of offerings of the Princes should have been suspended on Shabbat, since they were private offerings. In this case, however, G-d allowed the offering to be brought even on Shabbat because it was like a public offering. Since all of the offerings were brought exactly like one another to maintain the sense of community (Tzibur), peace, and unity this was a Korban Yachid (private offering) that was infused with the spirit of a Korban Tzibur (public offering). It was a Korban Yachid that was brought to keep the Tzibur intact. G-d said, as it were, “For Me, this is considered a Communal Offering”.
We see from here the importance of communal unity and the importance of communal peace.
G-d’s response to one who does things to promote such peace is unity and harmony. A person who keeps a Tzibur together is one who brings merit to the masses in a most distinguished fashion and who merits many wonderful things for himself as well.
“Take a census of the sons of Gershon, as well, according to their fathers’ household, according to their families” (4:22)
Why did Hashem stress that Moshe should also count the families of Gershon? Why would he not count Gershon if he was counting Kehat? R’ Moshe Feinstein answers that people have a tendency not to bother with something if they cannot be the best at it. The people of Gershon may have felt unimportant because they were not assigned the most important task of carrying the vessels of the Mishkan. Therefore, it was especially important to count Gershon, more so than Kehat, in order so that they would understand that their role was just as essential as that of Kehat. When someone is counted, it shows them that they are valuable. Their job was an important task too, even if it was not the most important.
Every person has their role and their task in life. Every person possesses unique talents and abilities that are different from those of other people.
Every single individual and his role are all equally important, whatever that role might be.
Therefore, we must respect every single person and object as an integral part of Hashem’s plan for the world.