Parshat Naso -
The N'si'im: Why are They Repeated?

(To prepare for this shiur,
see the questions for self study.)

Did you ever notice the last pasuk in Parshat Naso? Probably not, but if you did, it most certainly would have bothered you!

We'll begin this week's shiur by explaining why that pasuk 'should have bothered you.' Then we will suggest a solution that will help us understand both the structure of Parshat Naso and the importance of national unity.

Rarely does anyone pay attention to the second half of Parshat Naso (that describes the dedication offerings brought by the twelve n'si'im), and for a very simple reason: in those last eighty some psukim (see 7:12-83), the Torah repeats twelve times the exact same details of the exact same korban! Then, 'to top it off,' in the final five psukim (see 7:84-88) the Torah tallies them for us as well.

But let's say we understood the necessity for that lengthy repetition. The final pasuk of this Parsha remains totally baffling. Let's explain why.

An Almost Perfect Finale
At the conclusion of the Torah's tally of all of the offerings brought during those twelve days, we find a 'perfect' summary pasuk:

"... this was the dedication offering for the mizbayach on the day that it was consecrated." (see 7:88)
Clearly, 7:88 could (and should) be the final pasuk of this unit. To verify this, note how 7:88 'closes' 7:84 as well as 7:1!

But to our surprise, after this summary is complete, the Torah 'adds on' an additional pasuk that appears to be totally unrelated. Let's take a look:

"And when Moshe would come into the Ohel Mo'ed to speak to Him, he would hear God's voice speak to him from above the Kaporet above the Aron between the two keruvim, and then He would speak to him." (see 7:89, the end of Parshat Naso)
The information in this pasuk may be important, but what does 'how God spoke to Moshe from the Ohel Mo'ed' have to with the twelve days of korbanot that were just offered?

Nothing New
To complicate matters, not only does this pasuk appear to be 'out of place,' it also appears to be superfluous for it doesn't contain any information that we didn't know beforehand. Let's explain why. In regard to the description of how God speaks to Moshe from above the Kaporet etc., this very same detail was already recorded in Parshat Terumah in God's commandment to Moshe concerning how to build the Mishkan:

"And in the Aron put the Eydut... And I will meet you there and speak to you from above the Kaporet between the two Keruvim that are on the Aron Ha'Eydut..." (Shmot 25:21-22)
Furthermore, the first pasuk of Sefer Vayikra already informed us that indeed God had already spoken to Moshe Rabbeinu from the Ohel Mo'ed (see Vayikra 1:1).

Therefore, not only is 7:89 'out of place;' it also appears to be superfluous.

To uncover the importance of this 'add on' pasuk, we must consider the other events that took place of this same day - i.e. the day of the dedication of the Mishkan - and their purpose.

Yom HaShmini
Recall that in addition to Parshat Naso, there are two other units in Chumash that describe the story of the Mishkan's dedication:

Recall as well that at the conclusion of both of these parshiot, the Torah described how God's Sh'china returned to Am Yisrael on that day (see Shmot 40:34-38 and Vayikra 9:5-6,24). (See Board #1.)

We will now show how the final pasuk of Parshat Naso may serve a similar purpose, and for an important thematic reason! Let's explain.

Back to Chet Ha'Egel
Recall that in the aftermath of Chet Ha'Egel [the sin of the Golden Calf; see Shmot 32], God punished Bnei Yisrael by taking away His Sh'china from their midst (see Shmot 33:1-4), for they were no longer deserving of His Presence. As a consequence of this punishment, God instructed Moshe to relocate his own tent from within the camp of Bnei Yisrael to outside the camp:

"And Moshe took the tent, and set it up outside the camp, far away from the camp, and called it the Ohel Mo'ed; then anyone who would seek God would need to go to the tent outside the camp" (see Shmot 33:7)
Hence, the location of Moshe's tent outside the camp, and the fact that God would now only speak to him at this location, reflected Bnei Yisrael's 'rejected' status. Note as well that Moshe's tent outside the camp is now named the Ohel Mo'ed - the tent of meeting (between God and Moshe) - a name that will later be used to describe the Mishkan itself!

With this background, we can better appreciate the thematic importance of God's commandment to build the Mishkan:

"And you shall build for Me a Mikdash, so that I can dwell in their midst..." (see Shmot 25:8)
[In regard to whether this commandment was given before [Ramban] or after [Rashi] Chet Ha'Egel, see TSC shiur on Parshat Terumah.]

The location of the Mishkan at the center of the camp, and God's speaking to Moshe from its innermost sanctuary (see Shmot 25:21-22) would certainly symbolize that Bnei Yisrael have returned to their pre-Chet Ha'Egel status of Ma'amad Har Sinai.

Recall as well that even though Moshe had descended with the Second Luchot and God's thirteen attributes of Mercy on Yom Kippur, the Sh'china did not immediately return to the camp. Indeed Bnei Yisrael were forgiven for Chet Ha'Egel, but in order for the Sh'china to return, Bnei Yisrael must first build the Mishkan. Therefore, for the entire time period between Moshe's descent on Yom Kippur until the Mishkan's dedication in Rosh Chodesh Nisan, any conversation between God and Moshe took place in the Ohel Mo'ed located outside the camp. [See Ibn Ezra, Ramban, and Chizkuni on 33:7!]

Hence, until the Mishkan was assembled, the existence of Moshe's special Ohel Mo'ed outside the camp served as a constant reminder to Bnei Yisrael that they were still not worthy enough for God's Sh'china to dwell in their midst.

The Big Day!
With this background, it becomes clear that the highlight of Yom HaShmini for Bnei Yisrael would be the return of God's Sh'china to the camp, a sign of their divine pardon, as well as a sign that they could now continue on their journey to Eretz Canaan.

Therefore, the first time that God will speak to Moshe from the Mishkan (in contrast to his Ohel Mo'ed outside the camp) will certainly be a major event in the eyes of the nation; it will indicate that the Mishkan has achieved its goal!

Hence, our 'add on' pasuk - describing how God spoke to Moshe from the Kaporet in the Ohel Mo'ed (see 7:89) - becomes the highlight of the entire chapter. The fact that God now speaks to Moshe from the Mishkan is a sign that the Sh'china has indeed returned.

Note how this completes our parallel to the other two descriptions of the dedication ceremony in Chumash:

But why are these korbanot of the n'si'im so thematically important? How do they facilitate the return of God's Sh'china?

To answer this question, we must return to our analysis of Sefer Bamidbar.

A Show of Unity
Recall how the first ten chapters of Sefer Bamidbar describe Bnei Yisrael's preparation for their journey from Har Sinai to Eretz Canaan. During this journey it was the job of the Leviim to carry the Mishkan. The tribes would surround the Mishkan and travel with the Mishkan at their center in royal fashion (see Bamidbar 10:11-24).

On the day of the Mishkan's dedication, the leaders of the twelve tribes - i.e the n'si'im - all joined together to present the Leviim with a present of six wagons to help them carry the Mishkan during their journey (see 7:1-9). At that same, each one of these twelve n'si'im also presented Moshe Rabbeinu with a special korban for the dedication of the Mishkan (see 7:10).

Instead of each nasi trying to outdo the other [ever hear of such a thing?], each nasi offered the exact same korban, and they all presented their korbanot to Moshe Rabbeinu on that day. Instead of offering all of these korbanot on one day, God instructed Moshe to set aside a special day for each nasi (see 7:11!). The Torah continues by informing us of how each nasi brought his korban over the next twelve days. This show of unity was so important, that the Torah finds it necessary to detail each and every korban, even though they were identical!

But note carefully how the summary psukim in 7:84-88 return to the very first day, when the Mishkan was first dedicated:

"This was the dedication of the mizbayach, on the day that it was anointed, by the n'si'im of Israel..." (7:84)
This explains why the Torah summarizes all of the korbanot together. The Torah is not teaching us addition (or multiplication); rather it is emphasizing once again how all of these korbanot were presented to Moshe by all of the n'si'im on the very first day! These psukim return us to the very first day of the Mishkan's dedication and conclude with the highlight of that day in 7:89 - that God spoke once again to Moshe from the Ohel Mo'ed within the camp of Bnei Yisrael!

One could suggest that it was this show of tribal unity that made Bnei Yisrael worthy once again of the Sh'china. As we know, unity of Am Yisrael, a nation whose destiny is to represent God before other nations, is a prerequisite for the dwelling of God's Sh'china in our midst. [See also Rashi on Shmot 19:2 "va'yichan - everyone as one person with one heart...," describing how Bnei Yisrael first encamped at Har Sinai.] (See Board #3.)

It is this nature of a collective effort, where everyone must be alike and work together towards a common goal, yet at the same time keep his own identity and shine as an individual, that makes room for God to 'join along' as well!

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