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Parashat Naso: Which Do You Choose?

It is very common, especially in our society, to boast about the titles one holds. If we are addressed with the title of "Doctor" or "Engineer," it's akin to a noble title. The same goes for when we hold a position: Designating someone as Mr. Manager or the person in charge of a business or company automatically gives that designated person a sort of power over the rest of us mortals.

 

Sadly, this feeling of superiority over others often affects the person who holds the position as well, and many times, this power is wielded with abuse, unjustly taking advantage of those whom they should be helping progress.

 

Parashat Naso presents us with a different view. We are in the midst of the inauguration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), and for this, each appointed leader of each tribe was required to bring an offering. Instead of grouping all the offerings into one account, the Torah gives space and time to each of the leaders, repeating over and over how and what each one brought (in fact, each leader brought the same offering as the previous), making this parashah the longest of all.

 

The point I want to make is that when naming each leader of each tribe, the Torah does so including the word "nasi" (leader or chief), except in one case, that of Nahshon ben Amminadav. We might assume it was an oversight or assume that Nahshon himself wasn't a great leader, but that wasn't the case.

 

Nahshon was the one who first dared to enter the waters at the Exodus from Egypt when they had not yet parted, and according to the Midrash, his action provoked their opening. It is no wonder that to this day, those who dare to lead a mission, no matter how dangerous, are called "nahshonim".

 

In Nahshon's case, the title of "nasi" was unnecessary. He was a leader who didn't need to boast to be one. He is an example of those who understand the task at hand over individual being. It's about achieving leadership naturally, through commitment to the task, not because someone said THAT person should be the leader with a title or a sign on a door or desk.

 

This requires a strong spirit, one that dedicates itself to the task, setting aside personal interests and the ambition to be above the rest. Nahshon didn't need any title mentioned for his people to recognize him as a leader.

 

Notice that the parashah continues with the description of the Nazir. A Nazir was a person who, for a set period, dedicated themselves to God, abstaining from pleasures such as wine, and distancing themselves from vanities like cutting their hair, and from impurities like contact with corpses.

 

Samson was the most well-known Nazir, and his story is well-known, ending tragically when his spirit was broken by his love for Delilah, who betrayed him.

 

Putting aside novels, it is once again evident that no matter how strong a person is, how brilliant, or how much money they've accumulated in their life, if they don't have a dedication of spirit and if they can't master that part of their inner world that desensitizes them, they end up being fragile individuals.

 

What we need to seek is the strength that isn't given solely by titles, or only by the gym, or by businesses, but the one that makes our spirit grow and is recognized by our good name, like Nahshon's. That name that we can make great with our actions day by day, adding achievements and adding successes and failures that give us the real perspective of what we want to achieve.

 

if in that project, we add Nahshonim, then it will be them who will pull those who don't dare, those who are lazy, those who don't decide to take on situations to change, as possible challenges. To achieve this together, Parashat Naso gives us year after year the story of the blessing that El Kadosh Baruch Hu, the Holy Blessed Be, gives to each member of the People of Israel through the Cohanim, in those times and through our parents and teachers today. A blessing that desires grace, light, protection, care, and peace for Israel.

 

'Iyebarechecha Adonai Veishmerecha’: May God bless you and keep you.

'Iyaer Adonai Panav Eilecha veijuneka’: May God shine His face upon you and be gracious to you.

'Isa Adonai Panav Eilecha Veiasem Lecha Shalom’: May God turn His face toward you and grant you peace.' (Numbers 6:24–26)

 

A crescendo in which we move - in Hebrew - from three words to five and then to seven. A blessing that over the years has helped us to trust ourselves and others, despite our fears and the chaotic times, of terror and permanent anguish, that we have experienced and continue to experience. A blessing that shows the movement from protection and care, to light and grace, to reach peace.

 

For any project, and even more so for a community project that involves people in a congregation, it requires each and every one of its members. There will always be Nahshonim, but everyone is needed for the project to function and endure. Any task is simplified by the sum of wills. Any improvement is possible through collective commitment. Any growth is achievable if we all look in the same direction and unite our efforts and have the blessing of the Lord.

 

Samson or Nahshon? Which one do you choose?

 


Shabbat Shalom

 

Rabbi Gustavo Geier

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