Hail to the Chiefs: Naso 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Do you ever repeat yourself? Do you ever repeat yourself? Do you ever repeat yourself? Do you ever –

All right, enough of that, but you could be forgiven if you found the end of this week’s portion to be ridiculously repetitious, in which each tribe brings the exact same offerings to the Tabernacle, and these offerings are described identically each time:

The Pitch: “The chieftains also brought the dedication offering for the altar upon its being anointed.” – Numbers 7:10a

Swing #1: “Numbers 7, in which tribal chiefs deliver their offerings to the tabernacle, reminds me of a question that’s been bugging me ever since I came across the sublime name Zillah in Genesis. (She was the wife of Lamech.) Why do parents limit themselves to just a few biblical names (Isaac, Ezekiel, Samuel, Rebecca, etc.), and ignore so many other marvelous ones? This chapter alone has Eliab, Zurishaddai, Eliasaph, Gamaliel, Ochran, Gideoni, and Ahira. Wouldn’t life be better with fewer Davids and Pauls and more Ahiras and Zurishaddais?” – David Plotz, Good Book

Swing #2: “These were they who were appointed over them in Egypt, regarding whom it is stated: ‘And the officers of the children of Israel, whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, saying: Wherefore have you not fulfilled your appointed task in making bricks both yesterday and today …?’” – B’midbar Rabbah

Swing #3: “Moses had to make a difficult choice in this gift-giving process: Which tribe was to go first? He chose Yehudah, not, it is generally believed, for its ‘leadership’ role but as a way of doing honor to Nakhshon ben Aminadav, the one Israelite who fearlessly plunged into the waters of Yam Suf, his faith in God’s promise to protect these people utterly unshaken.” – George Robinson, Essential Torah

Late-Inning Questions: Some believe that the list of offerings brought by each tribesman is listed in full every time because each set of offerings needed to be recognized, even if they were identical to all of the other sets. Does that sound like a valid rationale? To what extent is our obligation to recognize every person’s contribution to a worthy cause? How much do we need to be recognized?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: I wish to express my gratitude to so many in the congregation who stepped up last Shabbat and during Shavuot. I became ill last Friday and was briefly hospitalized. Thankfully, I’m much better now, and I’m thoroughly impressed how Daphne Hubara and other congregants stepped up to run services effectively and smoothly. It’s heartening to know that this congregation has the depth to pitch in as needed.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of being repetitious, the otherwise unremarkable career of John Lowenstein hit a high-water mark in the mid-1970s when he posted the exact same batting average three years out of four. Unfortunately for him, that average was only .242.

Shabbat Shalom!