Written by Amir Dan, New Shlichim
This week's Parsha, Nasso, follows immediately after the celebration of Shavuot. Looking closely, we find a thematic thread between them.
Parshat Nasso deals with many subjects of the individual and the group and the balance between them. The parsha begins with the counting of the People of Israel:
נשא את ראש (Take a census of)
The Hebrew however, holds within it the focus of the way the census should take place. Even though the individual is counted within a group – their family, their father's houses – each individual should raise their heads, stand straight and create their own presence.
The Parsha ends with the description of the 12 Nesi'im, chiefs of the 12 tribes of Israel, bringing forth their sacrifice for the dedication of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.
The sacrifice is the same and the Torah elaborates twelve identical descriptions in a repetitive fashion instead of one concise Pasuk summarizing it all. We know that not one letter in the Torah is redundant. Therefore, this repetition comes to teach us that while the sacrifice itself was the same, each chief had his own personal expression and kavanah (meaning) behind their individual sacrifice.
In the middle of the Parsha, as the focal point, is the Birkat Kohanim, the Priests' Blessing. Birkat Kohanim comes to bless the entire People of Israel, but it is written in singular form:
יברכך ה' וישמרך
יאר ה' פניו אליך ויחנך
ישא ה' פניו אליך וישם לך שלום
This is to teach us that while the Kohanim are blessing the congregation as a whole, the blessing itself is a personal blessing aimed directly at each individual.
How does this connect to Shavuot? When B’nai Israel camped at the base of Mount Sinai, the Torah writes:
ויחן שם ישראל – once again in singular form.
The Midrash says – singular form because the nation was "כאיש אחד בלב אחד" as one man with one heart. Wasn't it enough to say one man, why elaborate one heart as well? This is to teach us that "as one man" is not enough. Each year on Shavuot we renew our acceptance of the Torah as a people, but also each of us personally as individuals "with one heart" – in the hearts of each and every one of us.This balance of the group and the individual manifests itself in our personal lives as well.
Entering a classroom to teach our students, we the teachers walk in with the best of intentions to give our hearts to the group as a whole – but also to see the individual in each of our students; to allow them to stand straight, have their presence and to see each individual contribution: כאיש אחד בלב אחד
Shabbat Shalom to Each and Every One of You!