This week’s parsha is the longest in Torah. Its length is due to an account of each of the twelve tribal chieftains bringing their offerings to dedicate the Mishkan (Holy Tabernacle). While each chieftain gives exactly the same gift of 35 items, Torah repeats each chieftain’s identical offering. “The one who offered his offering on the first day was Nachshon the son of Aminadav, of the tribe of Yehudah. And his offering was one silver dish weighing 130 shekels, one silver bowl of 70 shekels…On the second day offered Nethanel the son of Tzuar of the tribe of Issachar. And his offering was one silver dish weighing 130 shekels, one silver bowl of 70 shekels…”
Why does Torah spend 72 verses repeating the offerings of each individual chieftain when each of them offers exactly the same gift?
The Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 13, 14) explains that although each chieftain gives identical gifts, each one experiences the dedication of the Mishkan differently. The items might be the same, but each item holds a symbolism unique to the tribe that offers it. Items are symbolically linked with a personality or event in Jewish history or a concept in Jewish faith or practice that carries special meaning for an individual tribe and reflects the distinctive essence of the tribe. In this way, each chieftain has his own intention when he makes his tribe’s contribution. From this, we understand that it is not the gift, but the spiritual intention behind the gift that is significant.
Although the gifts are identical, the Ramban explains that each is uniquely precious to G-d. For that reason, G-d orders that the gifts be given on 12 successive days. He wants to give equal honor to each chieftain.
As parents, we must recognize that each achievement a child makes is unique to that child. Although big brother may also have won the spelling bee when he was little sister’s age, the children each accomplished this feat in a different manner. Each approached the goal differently, and each experienced different challenges along the way.
When one child presents her parents with a challah cover she has made, and her older sibling made and presented a challah cover the previous year, we parents must remember not to compare one gift to the other, and should make as big a deal about the second challah cover as the first.
Likewise, as parents, we should teach our children the proper and gracious way to acknowledge the gifts they receive. No matter how they perceive the gift -- big or small, appropriate or inappropriate, wanted or not -- we should teach them to appreciate the intention of the giver and the spirit in which the gift was given.