Most of the year, Jews around the world read the same parsha. This week we read Naso, while in Israel they have moved ahead to Beha’alotekha, because the second day of Shavuot coincided with Shabbat.
Naso, meaning “to lift up” or “to appoint”, begins with the designation of the Levi tribe to their respective duties in transporting the disassembled Mishkan (Tabernacle). A variation of the word also appears toward the end of the parsha in describing the gifts brought prior to the Tabernacle dedication by the 12 princes (Nasi – “one who is elevated”, plural Nesi’im).
Curiously, where normally the Torah is efficient in its use of language, the section on the prince’s gifts is repeated 12 times. Only the names of the givers are different, all else is identical.
Rashi explains the Nesi’im had been tribal leaders in Egypt. When Pharaoh sought someone to blame, they took the beating. Through the merit of their suffering, they were privileged to bring these dedication offerings.
Nasi therefore implies “nobility combined with responsibility” in a role that gives purpose to previous suffering and connection to the wider community.
We are in the easing stage of the Covid-19 lockdown, beginning to
assess the landscape of how we’ll continue as an Anglo-Jewish community. Early in the crisis, our Jewish leadership heard that noble call and created a relief fund.
Naso reminds us it’s important for all of us to come forward with gifts. Where we may wish to reduce contributions, those who are capable should do their best to keep or exceed the same level of giving to the charities of our choice.
Another variation of the Naso verb occurs in the Priestly Blessing within the parsha, which states: “May God lift you up and grant you peace!”
Through our rededication efforts, may the Almighty grant us a safe return to communal life and to peace.
Rabbi Jeff Berger can be contacted at email@example.com