At the end of this week’s Torah portion, Naso, in the book of Numbers, Moses finishes assembling the Tabernacle. The tribes have been given their station around the Tabernacle. At the beginning of the portion the three different classifications of Levites, the Merarites, the Kohathites and the Gershonites each are given their tasks in relationship to setting up and taking down the Tabernacle. And then the Tabernacle, the altar, and all of the utensils used in the sacrificial worship are dedicated and consecrated by Moses. “On the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle; he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings, as well as the altar and its utensils” (Numbers 7:1
With great ceremony this was conducted. But having Moses put the finishing touches and dedicating the altar and Tabernacle is not enough. Then each of the tribal leaders who were named in last week’s portion and who helped take the census of the Israelite men over the age of twenty, brought dedication offerings for the altar. Each leader is named again and each on behalf of their tribes brings exactly the same offering. It is spread out over the period of the next 12 days, one tribe a day. And it is a huge offering: a silver bowl and silver basin, a gold ladle filled with incense; on bull one ram and one lamb in its first year; one goat; two oxen; five rams, five goats and five yearling lambs. It took the whole tribe to gather this kind of offering. Not just the leader who presented it.
Why is it important to have the tribal leaders participate in the dedication of the altar? Isn’t it enough to have Moses dedicate the altar and consecrate it and then say open for business?
Not only do the tribal leaders represent their tribes at the dedication the tribes had to work together to gather this kind of might offerings. All had brought offerings to build the tabernacle in the desert, all had worked hard to build and create the various parts of the Tabernacle and now they worked as a tribe to gather the resources to bring the dedicatory offerings. They worked collaboratively and cooperatively to create their sacred institution-the very home of the Divine Presence in their midst.
This teaches us a very important principal about community that is still applicable to the Jewish community today. It takes us all to create the institutions of Holiness! Leaders and the people working together collaboratively and cooperatively makes the Divine Presence dwell in our midst. It can’t just be leaders; it can’t just be the people. But when we work together and hear the call of holiness then we create Tabernacles of meaning and experience that touch our souls!
Whether the tabernacle of old, the synagogue of today, or the other Jewish community institutions that connect us and transform us, when we dedicate ourselves to working together rather than each tribe by its self-then we can strengthen one another and the Jewish people!