The leaders of Israel, the heads of the fathers’ household, brought offerings” Numbers 7:1-2
This week’s parashah is the longest in the Torah. Yet over half of the verses are repetition of the identical offerings brought by each of the twelve tribal leaders for the dedication of the Mishkan (Tabernacle).
This repetition is a lesson for us on the importance of the individual. Each leader was unique and brought his own special brand to the offering. Therefore, although it appeared as if each offering was identical, in reality, each was totally different from the other. Like members of an orchestra, each individual played a unique role in bringing out the symphonious whole. Had one been missing, the symphony would have been flawed.
Any scribe will tell you that when writing a Sefer Torah one must be most careful not to miss out a single letter, for a Torah scroll with even a single letter missing is rendered unfit for use.
Each letter of the Torah represents a member of the Jewish people and, if one letter is missing, it is as though we are missing out on one of our brothers or sisters. Each individual is important and unique.
This week’s parashah is always read around the time of Shavuot, the festival where we celebrate the receiving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. The Torah has 613 commandments but there is nobody on earth who can fulfil them all. Some are for men, some are for women others are for Cohanim and Levi’im and still others for Israelites.
The Talmud tells us that “in the same way that no two individuals look alike, similarly no two individuals think alike”. Each individual has their own way of connecting with God.
Judaism emphasises unity. Not uniformity.