Sunday, December 01, 2013
The thought that counts for gifts in the Torah
Chanukah really was the time of gifts over 2,000 years ago when the nesiim of each shevat brought their offerings, and the way they did it tells us much about the Torah perspective on bringing gifts.
the Mishkan was completed on the 25th of Kislev. The actual inauguration of the Mishkan was put off until the first day of Nisan, which is when the Nessiyim started bringing their offerings. But since the Mishkan was actually completed on the 25th of Kislev, we read the section of the Nessiyim on Chanukah, to link the rededication during the Chanukah period with the original dedication of the Mishkan in the time of Moshe.
...... The Medrash indicates that when the Nessiyim brought their offerings, every Shevet had in mind what they would be bringing. The first day, Nachshon ben Aminadav of the Shevet of Yehudah brought his offering. The second day was the turn of Nesanel ben Tzuar of the Shevet of Yissachar.
The second person to offer was faced with a dilemma. What should I bring? The first person brought a beautiful offering, but what should I bring? Should I bring the same offering? No! That is not going to be good enough anymore. He was tempted to bring something even more impressive, which would have put pressure on the third Nossi to bring something even more expensive and so on down the line.
It is very easy to fall into the trap of one-ups-man-ship. It is like kiddushim in shul. The first week's sponsor has one potato kugel. The second person to make a Kiddush the following Shabbos has to add kishke to the menu. By the third week they are adding "herring from New York". It quickly becomes a contest of outdoing one's predecessor.
What did Nesanel ben Tzuar decide? He resisted the temptation. He recognized that the purpose of the Mishkan was to bring unity to the Jewish people, not strife and competition. He recognized if they began the inauguration of the Mishkan with competition, there would not be 'achdus' [unity] amongst the Jewish people, there would be dissension. Therefore, he took heroic action and brought exactly the same type of Korban as did Nachshon ben Aminadav, thereby sending a message -- my friends, this is not the time for competition or ones-up-man-ship. His example was followed by the third, fourth, and fifth Nessiyim and so on down the line.
This explains why the Torah, which is so frugal with its words, spends 60 plus pasukim in repetition of that which we already knew. The Torah could have told us in a pasuk or two that they all brought the same offering. Why go through the repetition, over and over again? The Almighty is teaching: "It is so precious and dear to Me that you each brought the same offering and did not play ones-up-man-ship that I will give each Nossi the exact same amount of 'print' in the Torah."
The Chofetz Chaim suggests it could be for this reason -- the Almighty's pleasure at the unity of His children by this non-competitive gesture -- that He made an exception and ruled that 'This private offering can even negate the laws of Sabbath.'