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Torah Tidbits with Rabbi Jeff Ney, Student Activities Director

Rabbi Jeff Ney, High School Student Activities Director

From a very young age, early into our educational lives, we are taught about the power of every word and every letter in the Torah. It is lovingly explained to us that the Torah does not ever waste any words. However, this week’s parsha, Parshat Naso, appears to be very wordy, and unnecessarily so.

In the Second half of Parshat Naso, the longest parsha in the Torah, over 80 pesukim(Bamidbar 7:12-83) are dedicated to the Korbanot that are dedicated by the Nesi’im (princes of each tribe). While on the surface, this would seem to not present a problem, upon closer, a major problem presents itself: Each one of the nesi’im gave exactly the same Korban and the language used in the Torah is identical for each one! The question then is obvious: Why would the Torah waste so many pesukim when it could have simply listed what was brought by all of the nesi’im and then simply stated that this was brought by each of them? I believe that the answer to this question not only explains why the repetition of each and every korban is not a waste of words, but teaches us a very profound lesson that is contained within the text.

The expression “Keeping up with the Joneses” first appeared in 1913, in a comic strip by Arthur “Pop” Momand. The term refers to one’s perceived socio-economic and cultural status compared to those around them, and the resulting attempt to impress or “keep up” with those in their social circle. Besides for how it can affect one’s personal financial situation, it can also create animosity, jealousy, and contempt among others through creating social pressure and creating a need to “fit in” and impress others.

When the first Nasi gave his Korban, he clearly selected a Korban that each and every Nasi would be able to afford as well. Then, instead of trying to outdo each other, each subsequent Nasi did the same, and offered the same Korban as the prior Nasi. The lesson learned justifies the Torah’s investing so many pesukim in teaching it: Each Nasi demonstrated true sensitivity to the feelings of another and teaches us that although they could have tried to “one up” each other, this is not something we should ever try to do. The more we think about the feelings of our friends and neighbors, the more we can emulate the actions of the Nesi’im and increase feelings of love and respect in the community.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Ney
High School Student Activities Director


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