We have just concluded the holiday of Shavuos, where we commemorated and celebrated the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai where the Jewish people stood as one to receive the Torah. As we transition quickly into Shabbos, we will read Parsha Naso which describes some of the tasks involved in transporting the Mishkan and the dedication of the Mizbeach (Altar).

The second half of Parshas Naso discusses the inauguration of the Altar and the offerings of the Nesiim – the leaders of each of the twelve tribes. As a group they contributed six wagons and 12 oxen for the purpose of transporting the Mishkan. The Torah states “they brought six wagons and twelve oxen, a wagon for every two leaders”. Why couldn’t they each donate a wagon on their own and why does the Torah need to emphasize that it was two leaders per wagon? We can do the math ourselves and figure it out.

The Sforno explains that they purposely did it in this manner, as a sign of brotherhood and unity, in order that they be deserving that G-d’s Presence should rest upon the people – as it says in Parshat Vzos Habracha – “He became King of Yeshurun when the heads of the nation gathered, the tribes of Israel in unity”. The Divine Presence does not dwell where there is strife and divisiveness.

The partnership of the Nesiim was not merely an attempt to save a few dollars. The Nesiim understood that as leaders, they had to set an example and clearly show that they were united in purpose. There is no room for envy or competition when it comes to performing a Mitzvah and serving the Creator. If I want to be the only one or the best one, then I am performing the act for myself and not for Hashem. On the other hand, if I am truly doing it for Hashem, then I want everyone else to do the same and that brings us together.

We see this in their individual offerings as well. Each one of them brought the exact same offering so that no one could say, mine is better. The Torah records each one of their offerings individually rather than just saying – and they all did the same. The Torah could have saved 65 verses, but wanted to reinforce this message that there is no room for personal glory or competition when it comes to serving a Higher purpose. 

Good Shabbos,

Rabbi Shaps and the JET Team