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by Rabbi Yaakov Menken

This week in the parsha, we read about the korbanos (sacrifices) that were brought by the heads of each of the tribes following completion of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. The Torah describes each sacrifice in full detail - precisely what was brought and in what quantity - and yet each sacrifice was exactly the same as the others. Why, then, did the Torah take up so much space? Could we not have merely read the contents of the sacrifices once, followed by the order of the tribes?

Rabbi Shmuel Greinemann, of Bnei Braq, tells us that the decision to bring the same items was made on the second day, when the second tribal head - obviously knowing what sacrifice had been presented the previous day - chose to appear with exactly the same. His intent was to avoid jealousy, which could have arisen had one "outdone" the others. This effort to avoid jealousy, and demonstrate honor and friendship between these tribal heads, was exceptional. Rabbi Greinemann explains that G-d was so pleased that He permitted the seventh sacrifice to take place on the Sabbath (even though individual's sacrifices were normally prohibited), and also recorded the sacrifices - in full - for all generations.

Thus we learn how important it is to avoid doing things that will inspire jealousy. If this is so concerning a spiritual matter like sacrifices, how much more true is it when concerning material goods?

We live in a generation busy "keeping up with the Joneses." This is a plague that has hit many so-called "religious" families, inspiring (for example) a series of houses (mansions, estates, edifices) so grand that one begins to wonder if the owners really plan to leave them for the Land of Israel when the Messiah arrives. One local Rabbi described passing a new Cadillac, driven by a religious woman who carefully followed the requirement to cover her hair. On the other hand, the Rabbi's wife (apparently gifted with an eye for these things that I don't even understand) noticed that her particular hair-covering was a wig valued at several thousand dollars.

Pasted to the Caddie's back bumper was a notice: "We're Ready for Moshiach!"


Judaism doesn't call for being an ascetic, but it does ask for a reasonable restraint of our material pursuits (material goods are one thing, materialism quite another). And not only is there an inherent problem of running after wealth; there is also the issue of inspiring jealousy from friends and neighbors. The tribal heads in our parsha gave quite generously to the Tabernacle upon its dedication, and yet carefully demonstrated mutual love and respect instead of trying to "go one better." Could we find more worthwhile models?

Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is the Director of Project Genesis.



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