In this week’s Parsha we read about the dedication of the Tabernacle and the sacrifices that were brought by each of the 12 princes of the Jewish people to inaugurate the altar. All 12 princes brought the exact same offering. They all brought the same number of utensils . . . the same weight utensils . . . the same number of animals.
It seems that it would have been sufficient for the Torah to write the offering of the first prince, Nachshon ben Aminadav from the Tribe of Yehuda, list the other princes and write that each one brought the same offering as Nachshon. We know that there are not even any extra letters in the Torah. So, why did the Torah write 11 extra paragraphs to describe the offering of each prince?
The Ramban provides us with several insights into the matter. In one of them, the Ramban explains that the repetition teaches us that although the princes donated identical gifts, the thoughts and intentions accompanying each offering were not identical. Rather, they were quite different. Through the Holy Spirit – a form of prophecy - each prince chose gifts and measurements that symbolized the traits and history of his tribe. Miraculously, externally, the offerings of each prince were equal. However, internally, they were quite different from one another.
The princes all had the same goal in mind– the same destination - a donation to the Mishkan in honor of G-d. However, they each took different directions to get to their destination. It’s like when giving people directions to our shul. You can come from the highway, Crawford, Devon or Dempster. Everybody is going in a different direction. Yet, they all arrive at the same place.
Jewish life is full of this idea. We all have different ways to serve G-d. There are Chassidim and there are Misnagdim. There is Agudas Yisroel and there is Mizrachi. There is this yeshiva and that yeshiva. There is this day school and there is that day school. There are Ashkenazim and there are Sefardim. There are Jews from Germany, Eastern Europe and Western Europe. There are Jews from Israel, North Africa, Iran, Iraq and Yemen. We speak different languages . . . we dress differently . . . we eat different foods . . . We have different accepted behaviors . . . we have different traditions and customs . . . We daven differently . . . Yet, we are all doing the right thing. We all are heading toward the same destination. We all daven for health, wisdom and sustenance. We all daven for the redemption of the Jewish people and the restoration of the Bais Hamikdosh. We are all different, yet we are all the same.
Even though people are different, that does make them any less of a person. When the Torah introduces us to the families of Moshe and Aharon, sometimes Moshe is mentioned first, while at other times Aharon is mentioned first. Rashi comments that this is to teach us that they were equal. But, one of the 13 fundamental beliefs in Judaism is that Moshe was the greatest person that ever lived! So, how could he and Aharon be equal?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein explains that they both were needed for the redemption of the Jewish people. So, even though Moshe was greater, it could not have happened without Aharon. So, in that sense they were equals. Rav Moshe suggests a second solution.
Although Moshe had greater abilities, both he and Aharon served G-d with their utmost dedication, faith and ability. They both completely dedicated themselves to the service of G-d. So, in that sense, they were equal. So too, while the offerings of the princes were equal and identical in physical description, they were certainly not the same because each offering was given with a unique spirit.
These 12 princes, different as they were from one another, each gave the same offering. Different as we may be from our fellow Jews, we all have the same Torah. We all serve one G-d. We are each unique, but in the fundamentals of our existence as G-d fearing Jews, we are not all that different from one another.