The Torah In Haiku: Naso
Twelve tribal leaders
Twelve offerings - all the same
What is the lesson?
Communities need us all
But each is unique
Numbers Chapter 7, the final section of this week's reading, includes 12 virtually identical passages describing the offerings brought by each of the tribal leaders for the dedication of the altar in the Tent of Meeting. Although it's possible to find meaning in the numbers specified for each part of the offering, there is also a lesson in the way the offerings are recorded.
God tells Moses, "Let them make their offerings, each prince on his day, for the dedication of the altar" (Num. 7:11). All 12 offerings are identical, with the details repeated 12 times. The penultimate verses of the chapter give us the sum total of the offerings. The entire ritual could likely have been completed in a single day without so much repetition in the text. But every word in Torah has meaning, so there must be a reason the text devotes 76 verses to this 12 day ritual.
One answer is contained in this week's haiku. All contribution to a community are equally important, so the text repeats each offering before giving the totals. But each person's contribution is also uniquely important, so the text tells us that an entire day is set aside for each tribe. We don't all make identical contributions - some can give more money, others can give more time, and each of us has particular talents to offer. But without each of those contributions we wouldn't have the vibrant and unique sacred communities in which we find meaning, support and connection.
This week’s image is from the website of my sacred community, Temple Chai in Long Grove IL