Parsha Naso: Learning to work together

Dear Scouts:

Many times we have to consider whether the individual or the group is more important. This week, in parsha Naso, we learn of many instances that present this question, with an interesting answer.

The family groups (each of which has several thousand people) of the Tribe of Levi take a census. Every man eligible to serve in the Mishkan (Tabernacle) – from 20 to 50 years old – is counted. The count is part of assigning them their work in setting up, taking down and transporting the Mishkan. The Leviim have a special job, different from the rest of Israel.

The Kohanim (Priests) are instructed to bless the people: “May God bless you and safeguard you. May God shine his countenance for you and be gracious to you. May God lift his countenance to you and give you peace.” This important blessing, which is now part of the blessing given by parents to their children on Friday night, was given by the Kohanim to the assembled mass of people at the Mishkan.

The Nasiim (Princes) of the Tribes bring gifts for use in the Mishkan. Each of the Princes brings the exact same gift:  One silver bowl and one silver basin, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil; one gold ladle filled with incense; and certain numbers of young bulls, cattle, goats and other animals.

What I learn from this is that both the individual and the group are important, and that they influence each other.
·      God counted the Leviim because they were each precious, but to accomplish their goal of caring for the Mishkan, they had to work together.
·      The Kohanim had a very important job, to convey God’s blessings to the people.  The importance of the Kohanim was not that they themselves were so special, but that they served the people.
·      Each Nasi brought the same gift as the others, but each one had a different reason for the gifts that he brought – the gifts meant something different to each Prince. Their individuality did not come from the physical things they brought, but came from the meanings they attached to the gifts.  While many of us may share the same characteristics, it is our relationship to those “things” that makes us who we are.

We all wear a Scout uniform, but it is just a reminder of our common goal to live according to the Scout Oath and Law. We each fulfill that goal in our own way.

We may each read the same Torah, but live its teachings differently from one another, and the way we do so forms our character.

Shabbat shalom,


©2014 Nelson R. Block