“This was the dedication of the altar, on the day it was anointed, from the leaders of Israel: twelve silver bowls, twelve silver basins, twelve gold ladles.” (Numbers 7:84)
Parashat Naso closes with the chieftains of the twelve tribes bringing gifts to the newly completed and consecrated mishkan, or Tabernacle, one offering each day. The offerings themselves are identical and rather than summarize them, the Torah repeats the ritual in detail twelve times.
Rabbi Yitzchak Meir of Gur (1798–1866; founder of the Gerer Chassidim) explains that while the material content of each offering is identical, the reason for the offering is individual. This is manifest by the Torah’s use of the word korbano, his offering, before each gift. Since the Torah does not specify the offering, each chieftain’s gift is an individual and original act, not an imitation. This interpretation is strengthened by Rashi’s interpretation of korbano to mean the offerings came from the chieftain’s personal wealth, and not from the tribal coffers. (Rashi is an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator).
We often make the mistake of assuming that people who do the same thing do so for the same reason. Parashat Naso reminds us there is a great difference between a public activity, which all can see, and a private experience, which is available only to the individual. JCCs offer many public activities; only JCC members can determine the meaning of those activities for themselves.
Good Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom,