What’s more important: the name you earn through hard work, dedication, and an upstanding life, or the titles others bestow upon you?
By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion in Israel is Nasso (Numbers 4:21 – 7:89) and it’s the longest portion in the Torah weighing in at 176 verses. It also contains a number of distinct episodes and narratives. One of these narratives are the offerings made in honor of the dedication of the Mishkan (the “Tabernacle,” a portable sanctuary) by each of the twelve tribes. Actually, each of the twelve tribes brought the exact same offering…but that interesting topic is not something that I am going to focus on now. I want to focus on another interesting oddity in the offering/dedication story.
Since the offerings of each tribe was identical, the verses that report each of the tribes’ offering are also identical, as well. As such, there are a series of 24-plus verses that are nearly the same! One difference,however, is the way the leaders of the tribes are introduced. When discussing the offering brought by each tribe, each verse introduces the leader of that tribe like this: “On the Xth day, the Prince from the tribe of Y, [named:] Z, offered…”
There is only one exception to this pattern, and that is regarding the tribe of Judah and its leader, about whom the verse says, “The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nachshon ben Aminadav of the Tribe of Judah.” Notice how the verse doesn’t mention that Nachshon was “the Prince” of the tribe of Judah! With every other tribe the leader is introduced with the title “The Prince” but not when introducing Nachshon of the tribe of Judah! Why not? What’s going on over here?
It is explained that some people just don’t need titles. Their actions, their reputation, and they’re accomplishments are far superior than any title they can be given. Regarding all the other tribes, it wasn’t always clear who the leader was, or how he got the job, or why he deserves it. Regarding Nachshon, however, no introduction is necessary.
Boy did he earn the position and his reputation preceded him everywhere. When the entire nation was trapped by the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s blood thirsty army closing in, it was Nachshon who told everyone, “Have no fear!”
It was Nachshon who told the people that if God promised to redeem us and save us, then that’s what was going to happen.
And so, Nachshon walked into the sea, and when the water was up to his neck the sea split, the Jews crossed over to the other side on dry land, and the rest was, rather the Egyptians were, “history.” Such a person needs no titles and no introductions!
So don’t be discouraged if you are not addressed by a deserving title. Live your life in a way that your name is the best title that anyone could want!
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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