Parshas Naso: Necessary Repetition
This week’s parsha, Parshas Naso, is the longest parsha in the Torah. This is, in a large part, due to perek zayin (Ch.7), which is 89 pasukim (verses) long!
The perek begins with: וַיְהִי בְּיוֹם כַּלּוֹת מֹשֶׁה לְהָקִים אֶת-הַמִּשְׁכָּן, וַיִּמְשַׁח אֹתוֹ וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ וְאֶת-כָּל-כֵּלָיו, וְאֶת-הַמִּזְבֵּחַ, וְאֶת-כָּל-כֵּלָיו; וַיִּמְשָׁחֵם, וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתָם - And it was on the day that Moshe finished erecting the Mishkan (Tabernacle) that he anointed it and sanctified it and all its utensils, and the Altar and all its utensils, and he anointed them and sanctified them; וַיַּקְרִיבוּ נְשִׂיאֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, רָאשֵׁי בֵּית אֲבֹתָם - And the princes of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ household, brought offerings… and they brought their offering before Hashem: six covered wagons and twelve oxen - a wagon for each two princes and an ox for each - and they brought them before the Mishkan… (Bamidbar 7:1-3).
The Torah then proceeds to enumerate, in precise and repetitious detail, the identical offering brought by each nasi on each day. R’ Mordechai Kamenetzky writes, “Naso is the longest portion in the Torah. It did not have to be that way, but the Torah chose to include seventy verses that say the same thing - over and over again. The parsha discusses the dedication of the Mishkan, describing the offerings that every nasi (tribal prince) brought in honor of the auspicious occasion. Yet each nasi brought the (exact) same items.
“The Torah uses six verses to expound, in precise details, the exact components and measurements of the offerings…. And on each day the Torah repeats verbatim the entire offerings, changing only the name of the presenter and his tribe.
“Normally the Torah is concise, even abbreviated, leaving man to expound upon the hidden and deduce the proper conclusions. In fact, two entire Talmudic tractates explaining the intricate laws of marriage and divorce are derived from only a few verses in Devarim! Why, then, if all twelve tribes brought the exact identical gift, is each and every nasi’s offering detailed over and over?
“The Torah should simply say the following: the daily offering was brought on twelve consecutive days. It consisted of the following. Next, the Torah should list the names of the twelve princes who brought the offerings. That way, seventy verses would be no more than ten or fifteen - and Parshas Naso would be fifty verses shorter.”
R’ Kamenetzky answer this famous question with a story: “A noted American rabbi was invited to address two different audiences, in two major cities in South Africa. Since the cities were many miles apart, he prepared one speech for both events. It was a wonderful lecture, encompassing a wide spectrum of Jewish ideas and filled with Medrash and Jewish law. Informative, enlightening and entertaining, it was the best speech he had ever prepared.
“The first night’s audience attested to the lecture’s brilliance, taking in every nuance of the dramatic presentation. Afterwards, a crowd gathered around the rabbi to praise him and hear variations of his theme.
“After such a wonderful reception, the rabbi thought that the second evening on the other side of the country would be a breeze. As he walked up to the podium to deliver his opus, he looked at the crowd and froze. He spotted at least fifty people he was certain had attended the previous night’s speech!
“Stunned, the rabbi quickly shuffled through the index cards of his mind. Piercing together parts of an old High Holy Day speech, adding a little from Chanukah, Purim and the Haggadah, the rabbi presented a scattered array of varying thoughts - not his best performance, to say the least.
“After the speech, people from the previous night once again gathered around the rabbi. ‘I am sorry,’ he stammered to them, ‘I had originally planned to repeat last night’s speech. Had I known you were coming, I would have prepared a totally different talk. But seeing you, I hastily arranged a lecture based on some previous material. I am very sorry for my poor performance!’ ‘But Rabbi,’ they replied, ‘that is exactly why we came! Last night’s talk was the most fascinating we had ever heard. We expected you to repeat it! We came all the way here to hear it again, word for word!’”
R’ Kamenetzky concludes and writes, “The Torah, in repeating the twelve offerings, and spending six verses on each one, leaves us with a message that is as powerful as it is pertinent. Many of our deeds are repeats of generations passed. Many are repeats from yesterday. Yet they are all beloved and cherished. Day after day after day, Hashem wants to hear and see the same prayer, blessing and charitable action over and over again. They are all as dear as the first time” (Parsha Parables, Bamidbar, p.424-464).
In avodas Hashem, repetition in our actions plays an important role. Every day, we recite the same nusach ha’tefillah, the same brachos, don the same tefillin in the exact same way. Weekly we light Shabbos candles the way we did the week before, we learn a pasuk and perek of Chumash, a daf Gemara, a kapitel of Tehillim, and then we relearn the same thing over again… Every year we take the arbah minim (four species of Succos), hear the same Shofar, and fast the same fast of Yom Kippur… And yet! All this repetition is necessary, beloved, important, cherished and precious to Hashem!
Our avodas Hashem, when does b’levav shalem - with a full heart - and with kavanah (intent) to serve Him, is as exciting, accepted, and beloved by the RS”O as our avodah of every other day. As long as our hearts and minds are behind our actions, there is no such thing as boring repetition before Him.
May we always find the passion to serve Him, may we realize that each and every action is precious before Him, and may our service alway be as new and as exciting as the offering of every nasi on every day, even though we surely have “been there and done that” many times before.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום