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
Text Copyright © 1995 Rabbi Yaakov Menken and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is the Director of Project Genesis.