Nasso 5778

It’s the thought that counts[1]

ויקריבו נשיאי ישראל ראשי בית אבתם וגו’ ויהי המקריב ביום הראשון וגו’ ביום השני הקריב וגו’
The princes of Israel, the heads of their tribes, brought offerings…The one who offered on the first day…On the second day he offered…[2]

The day that the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, was completed, was a day of great celebration[3]. The princes of Israel, one for each tribe, were tremendously inspired. They wanted to express their gratitude for Hashem resting His presence among His people. They decided to bring offerings, including animals and fancy vessels, all with an ornate presentation. Part of their motivation was to make up for the last time there were donations given towards the Mishkan[4]. Every member of the Jewish people was overjoyed for the opportunity to give of their own towards Hashem’s future resting place. The princes decided to let the people have their chance, and when the collection finished they would make up for anything that was lacking. By the time the collection finished, there was too much donated[5]. This means there was almost nothing left for the princes to donate. When the Mishkan was finally constructed, they pledged to be the first to show their thanks. They got up and brought their various offerings.

The Torah takes great pains to describe what each of the twelve princes brought. How many of each vessel, how much they weighed, which types of animals. The Torah dedicates seventy-one verses to describe their offerings. Besides the obvious question for why this was necessary to record, there’s an even bigger question that stands out. The Torah’s description for each prince’s offering is the exact same. Every single one of them brought the same offerings, with no difference in any of the details. The only difference is that only one prince offered per day, so each day was a different prince. However, the offerings were no different. Why not just write it once, and say that they all brought the same thing[6]?

One answer is[7] that each of the twelve princes thought of the exact same idea for what offerings to bring to show their gratitude. However, each of them had completely different intentions behind the offerings. One brought these offerings for one reason, whereas the others had totally unrelated reasons. Therefore, the Torah recorded the offerings of each individual prince. The Altar of Slabodka ztv”l makes an important observation from this explanation. Even though each of the prince’s offerings were physically the exact same, since they had unique intentions behind them, they are each considered to be unique offerings. We learn from here that a person’s intentions and thoughts can change the entire essence of their actions. For example, two people can be doing the exact same actions, but for one it’s a mitzvah and for the other it’s not[8]. We can turn our everyday mundane activities into mitzvos; it just takes the proper thoughts.               Good Shabbos

[1] Based on Yeshivas Mir’s weekly devar Torah writeup, Beis Medrash Bishvilei HaParsha # 302 (parshas Nasso)

[2] Numbers 7:2-89

[3] ibid verse 1. Rashi ad. loc. says it was like a bride going to her wedding canopy

[4] Rashi to verse 3, quoting Sifrei Bamidbar § 45

[5] Exodus 36:7

[6] Ramban to verses 2-5

[7] ibid

[8] With this the ruling of the Rambam in Mishneh Torah Hilchos Melachim 8:11 now has an explanation. He says that a ben Noach is only considered fulfilling his seven mitzvos if he does them because Hashem commanded benei Noach in the Torah to follow them. Why should their intention matter? Since the proper intention can change a meaningless action into a mitzvah