Naso – Humility and Humiliation

For Food for Thought in Spanish: Haga clic aquí para leer en español. Please share this with your Jewish Spanish speaking family, friends, and associates.

The last part of this week’s Torah portion of Naso discusses the dedication of the Mishkan. Each of the heads of the tribe brought a set of offerings at the dedication. The first was Yehuda, (Bamidbar 7:12,13).

The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon the son of Aminadav of the tribe of Yehuda. יבוַיְהִ֗י הַמַּקְרִ֛יב בַּיּ֥וֹם הָֽרִאשׁ֖וֹן אֶת־קָרְבָּנ֑וֹ נַחְשׁ֥וֹן בֶּן־עַמִּֽינָדָ֖ב לְמַטֵּ֥ה יְהוּדָֽה:
13And his offering was one silver bowl weighing one hundred and thirty [shekels], one silver sprinkling basin [weighing] seventy shekels according to the holy shekel, both filled with fine flour mixed with olive oil for a meal offering. יגוְקָרְבָּנ֞וֹ קַֽעֲרַת־כֶּ֣סֶף אַחַ֗ת שְׁלשִׁ֣ים וּמֵאָה֘ מִשְׁקָלָהּ֒ מִזְרָ֤ק אֶחָד֙ כֶּ֔סֶף שִׁבְעִ֥ים שֶׁ֖קֶל בְּשֶׁ֣קֶל הַקֹּ֑דֶשׁ שְׁנֵיהֶ֣ם | מְלֵאִ֗ים סֹ֛לֶת בְּלוּלָ֥ה בַשֶּׁ֖מֶן לְמִנְחָֽה:

Rabbeinu Bachye says that the tribe of Yehuda came first for all the things, whether the travels in the desert with the flags, the dedication of the Mishkan, or during war, as well as inheriting the land, and the future redemption (may it come speedily in our days.) By the offerings of the tribes, the Torah writes “his offering,” but by Nachshon (here), who was the first, the Torah writes “and his offering,” the reason being that he would not feel haughty above the others and say ‘I am first before everyone else.’ Therefore, pasuk 13 begins “And his offering,” as if he came after everyone else; and by everyone else it says “his offering,” as if each one was first. For this reason, it does not mention the title of ‘prince’ by Nachshon, but by all other tribal leaders who brought their offering after him they are given the title of ‘prince.’ (Click here for Hebrew text.)

We see from this Rabbeinu Bachye that in order to avoid any haughtiness coming from the tribe of Yehuda and their leader, Nachshon ben Aminadav, Hashem added an “and,” which implies he was not first and left out his deserved title of prince whereas everyone received their title.

Isn’t this a game? The Tribe of Yehuda and it’s head certainly knew who they were and would always be first; deserving of the kingship, which wound up coming through the Davidic line leading up to Moshiach. So why should one added letter and one less word in the Torah make an impact to subjugate their potential haughtiness, especially if it’s not totally true, they really were the first to bring the offering and he really was a prince like all the other tribal leaders?

However, it would seem that this is not a game. When a person sees he is different from everyone else and the message is a message of inferiority, even though he knows intellectually it is not true, but the “in your face” message can make an impact on a person psychologically, and someone who knows he is number one will automatically be humbled.

If that is the case for someone who is on top, then all the more so a lowly person, who might not have the greatest self-esteem, will be triggered and tormented even by the slightest and most subtle of remarks regarding subjugation, and that will cause great humiliation. Therefore, others have to be very careful what they say or do, and especially to not purposefully hurt someone’s feelings even with what seem to be a very minor joke or insult.