Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah -Naso
I have a unique talent. I can hit five or six different keys while trying to sing one song. I don’t know of many people who appreciate my gift, though. I have received various derision because of my singing, but as I see it, when I sing, people begin to pray (that I will stop). I am told that there are rules for singing. My response is that I love doing whatever I do (singing or caterwauling). There has to be room for both the rules and the individual expression in this world.
In rededicating the Tabernacle along the journey, each tribe decided to bring a gift to the Tabernacle, its priests who would, in turn, share it with the poor. Each tribe brought the very same gift – exact in measurement and value (down to the weight of the silver plates and the age of the five lambs), but on different days. The sages teach that even while the gifts were exactly the same, each tribe experienced the giving in unique ways. For some wealthier tribes, the gift was easier to give than experienced by the poorer tribes. Some brought their gifts on bright sunny days, while others had to schlep everything in the rain. Perhaps the first several tribal gifts held Moses and the people in awe, but by the time the later tribes brought theirs, people were accustomed to the gift and showed less respect. Furthermore, given the diverse geographies in which the tribes lived, how they procured the gifts had to be a unique experience for each group. We know that the Tabernacle flourished during our wilderness journey.
We live in a world where we take individuality for granted. We get bombarded with so much data each day that to compensate and keep up; we look for repeated patterns/characteristics so that we can file people and ideas into neat packages. This gathering or “lumping” people into categories or groups helps us remember and process all of the information.
At the same time, it demeans the individual spirit. “One size fits all” does not work with formal gowns, shoes, or people. The Torah’s description attempts to assign equal dignity to each tribe. The text does not tell us where the gift came from, whether the tribe had to purchase the gifts from someone else first, or more importantly, how giving the gift impacted the tribe that gave it.
We want people to follow rules. We want there to be “norms” in society. We also want to celebrate the individual soul. There is a lot of tension that links these two world views. We need structure, and we need freedom.
As we look at how this plays out in life, we experience this tension as we interact. Each of us will see the “rules” through differing eyes and sentiments. One God creates billions of different lives, and each one of these lives is unique in some way yet still tied to the very same source of creation. Ultimately, we must recognize that even when people see an event or read a text that we saw or read, they may walk away with a distinctly different understanding than we did. We have no right to force someone to see the world through only our frames of reference.
As one recounts the violence that plagues humanity throughout history, we find that almost every battle stems from one’s inability or unwillingness to see a matter through any eyes but the one who stands in judgment. Whether this is the breakup of family or friends or a war between states or nations, violence happens when we fail to recognize that another person’s worldview could be as valid for him or her as mine is to me – that they might see the same world differently. Building relationships requires listening and learning – to grow respect for someone else – even where people cannot agree.
We have to remember that rules exist to help us form societies. It takes each person with a unique perspective and gift to make that society live and thrive. If we fail to respect the rules or fail to respect each other, society fails. Let’s make sure that we listen to and respect each other.