Korban Quandary By Moshe Kollmar


The end of Parshat Naso deals with the dedication of the Mishkan. Beginning on the first of Nissan, the Nassi of each Sheivet gives a donation, one donation a day. The donation for each was: one silver bowl, weighing 130 Shekel, filled with fine flour and oil for a Korban Minchah; one silver basin, weighing 70 Shekel, filled with fine flour and oil for a Korban Minchah; one golden ladle, weighing 10 Shekel, filled with Ktoret; one bull for a Korban Olah; one ram for a Korban Olah; one lamb for a Korban Olah; one goat for a Korban Chatat; two cows for a Korban Shlamim; five rams for a Korban Shlamim; five goats for a Shlamim; and five lambs for a Korban Shlamim. If they all gave the same thing, why does it list the donation of each one in full?

  The Midrash explains that each Nassi had different logic for bringing his Korban, so they cannot be lumped. Many different Midrashim elaborate on the reasoning behind each Korban. According to the Buber edition of Bamidbar Rabbah, the basic one of these Korbanot is modeled after ancestors and the leaders of the Jews of his day, and great historical events. The silver bowl, Ka’arat Kesef, corresponds to Adam and Chavah. In Gematria, a linguistic-numeric exchange system where each letter has its own value, Ka’arat Kesef is 930, corresponding to the length of Adam’s life, in years (Breishit 5:5). It weighed 130 Shekel, corresponding to Adam’s age when he had his son Sheit (Breishit 5:3), from whom all of the world is descended. The silver basin, Mizrak Echad Kesef, corresponds to Noach, through Gematria. The Gematria of Mizrak Echad Kesef is 520, the sum of Noach’s age when he had his first son and the number of years before having a son that Noach was told about the impending flood. Its weight, 70 Shekel, correspond to the seventy nations descended from Noach. The golden ladle symbolizes the Torah and the Aseret Hadibrot, because it weighs 10 Shekel. The Ktoret it is filled with represents the 613 Mitzvot within the Torah. In order to make this link, a letter exchange called At Bash is used on the first letter only. Once At Bash is used, the Gematria of the word is 613. The bull offered as an Olah refers to Avraham, who gave a bull to each of his guests, even when he was newly circumcised (Breishit 18:7). The Olah ram represents Yitzchak, who had a lamb offered as an Olah instead of him at the Akeidah. The Olah lamb corresponds to Yaakov, who was a shepherd. The Chatat goat symbolizes Yosef, whose brothers sold him and soaked his coat in goat’s blood. The two cows as Shlamim represent Moshe and Aharon, who brought peace between Bnai Yisrael and Hashem. (Shlamim comes from the word Shalom, peace). There are three groups of five animals as Shlamim, alluding to the Kohanim, Levi’im, and Yisraelim. The three groups also correspond to the three segments of Tanach: Torah, Nevi’im, and Ktuvim. The number five corresponds to the number of Chumashim within the Torah and the number of Dibrot on each of the Luchot.

  Many other Midrashim, like the Vilna edition of Bamidbar Rabbah, go into detail for each Nassi and explain his intentions. One who would like to read these fully should see chapters 13 and 14 of the Bamidbar Rabbah Vilna edition. A basic summary of each of the Nesi’im according to the Vilna edition of Bamidbar Rabbah is: Nachshon ben Aminadav modeled his Korbanot after his descendents, the kings of Yehuda; Netanel ben Tzuar modeled his after various aspects of Torah study; Eliav ben Chailon modeled his after his Sheivet’s commerce to support Yissachar; Elitzur ben Shdai’ur modeled his after Reuvein’s actions at Mechirat Yoseif; Shlumi’eil ben Tzurishaddai modeled his after the Mishkan; Elyasaf ben D’u’eil modeled his after Yetziat Mitzrayim; Elishama ben Amihud’s gifts were modeled after Yosef; Gamli’el ben Pdatzur modeled his after Yaakov’s love for Yosef; Avidan ben Gid’oni modeled his after the past and future history of his Sheivet; Achi’ezer ben Ammishaddai modeled his after Shimshon; Pagiel ben Ochran modeled his after Bnai Yisrael’s closeness to Hashem; on the final day, Achira ben Einan modeled his after the Avot and Imahot.

  One could devote years studying all the Midrashim on these comparisons. Some commentaries on the Midrash, like the Tiferet Tzion, write several volumes just on this one Parsha. Hopefully, this summary of a few Midrashim will teach just how much meaning the Torah adds by simply adding a seemingly superfluous Passuk. There are six Pesukim per Nassi, and about 100 different explanations of each Nassi’s Korban.

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