By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM
Dedicated in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM
This week's Torah portion Naso (Bamidbor [Numbers] 4:21-7:89) tells of twelve sets of gifts brought as offerings by each of the twelve tribes in honor of the dedication of the Tabernacle . Although the Torah does not waste words, and although each tribe seemingly brought the same gift, the Torah repeats word for word the exact order of their donation - "Reuben gave...,Shimon gave..., etc.", rather than simply saying "Reuben, Shimon,... and Benjamin each gave..."
Each of the items symbolized different things to different tribes, relating to that tribe's role. In this sense, each tribe brought a different flavor to their gifts.
All of the tribes conform to the same divine guidelines, all follow the same Torah, yet each one carries out those very same deeds with their own personal approach.
We often see tension between conformity and creativity, between tradition and innovation. People ask why Judaism has to be so rigid and conforming. Where is creativity? On the one hand we need the foundation stones of our Jewish tradition; on the other, we need an outlet for our creativity, to personalize, to nurture our own individual talents.
This Torah tells us that this is not a contradiction. The entire nation, including individuals of every conceivable character and calling, can do the very same deed, down to every last detail, yet each person provides a unique flavor. Two people may do exactly the same thing in a very different manner.
In the same manner, we can live in a civilized society, governed by ethical and moral precepts, yet still thrive as individuals. We can follow Torah and carry out its commandments, yet still remain true to our sense of individuality. No matter how conformist Judaism (or society, for that matter) may seem, there is always room for personal expression. It does not, however, have to involve rebellion or non-conformity. On the contrary, the greatest personal expression comes from different individuals who are following the same framework yet show diversity and individuality within that framework.
We were blessed with the framework of Torah, of Jewish teachings and practices. Let us endeavor to enjoy and celebrate our Judaism, in the traditions of our predecessors, yet with our own individual flavor - to keep it going for the next generation.
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Mordechai Wollenberg)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos
If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at firstname.lastname@example.org