At 176 verses, P. Naso is the longest single Torah portion of the year. Especially galling, the parasha concludes with what amounts to the same passage repeated a dozen times. I’m referring to the gifts and offerings brought by each of the leaders of the tribes to mark the dedication of the altar in the Tabernacle. Each day, the offerings were the same; the only difference is the name of the leader making the gift. Why this tedious repetition? Why not just give all the details once, and include that it was the same for each of the donors?
The Tabernacle was the first non-profit in our history; and same as with the non-profits to come (such as synagogues), major donors deserved to be recognized. I suppose bronze plaques were hard to come by in the desert, but the Torah making it a point to announce each leader’s name in connection with his gift resonates. Perhaps there is also special significance in the tribal leaders arriving day by day, in succession, rather than all together at once. Fundraisers know that it is easier to solicit a gift when it can be said that others are also giving. Could each leader have been waiting to see what his peer was committed to doing?
Back in the 13th century, Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet was asked about the propriety of a donor who gave an ark to his synagogue and, to ensure enduring recognition of the gift, he wrote his name on it. The congregation wanted to know if this was acceptable. The rabbi replied that, as a matter of Jewish Law, the congregation has the right to recognize donors, or not, in any way they see fit. However, he admonishes them that, morally and spiritually, they should not only allow the name on the ark, but encourage it. A person has the right to spend his or her money in just about any way he or she would like. Choosing to “sanctify of [one’s] property to Heaven” is a tremendous mitzvah. Everyone is remembered for something; what could be a better memorial than this? Recognizing gifts does not only reward the donor, it “opens the door [to others”] to follow suit, and to do more mitzvot.
Hearing about the gifts and and the donors again and again after a long Torah reading may seem taxing, but it serves a holy purpose. It reminds us that personal sacrifice is sacred, establishing one’s legacy is a choice which lies before each of us, and that acting on our commitments may be an inspiration to others.
Rabbi Mitch Levine