Much of this week’s Torah portion seems repetitive and entirely superfluous. The Torah spells out the content of each Nasi’s (tribal leader) korban offering separately, though all twelve were identical. Entire folios of Chumash pass by without a single remark by the commentaries. What is the object of this seemingly unnecessary repetition?
Ramban, quoting Midrashim, explains that, although each Nasi brought the exact same offering, this was entirely uncoordinated. Each Nasi decided what to bring as an offering independently, yet all came to the identical conclusion. Even more, Ramban explains that each Nasi had an entirely different rationale in bringing each of the many components of his offering. Thus, the Torah is not repeating the same korban twelve times, but rather enumerating twelve different korbanos which happen to be constituted of the same material.
Oftentimes, we wonder how we can possibly find personal expression within the uniform framework of Torah and Mitzvos. [We discussed this concept in Parshas Bamidbar, where the tribes were separated specifically after the Mishkan was instituted so as to ensure they retained their unique qualities even after the uniform service in the Mishkan commenced].
These words of Ramban hold the answer. Mitzvos, much like the korbanos of the Nasi, are not merely tolerant of diverse intents and sentiments. They are actually specifically crafted to satisfy each individual’s spiritual needs. Were God to design a Torah for each person individually, it would not look one iota different than the Torah we now have. The fact that Torah as we know it demands the identical Mitzvos of each and every Jew does not diminish the individual nature of each Jew’s Mitzvos, and is merely a testament to God’s infinite wisdom.
One prime example is prayer: We find it hard to imagine that every Jew can find expression to his personal requests of God in a uniform prayer text. Yet, Rav Chaim Volozhiner states unequivocally that this is indeed the case. The text of the Siddur, says Rav Chaim, has meaning specifically relevant to every single Jew in every given situation in every generation. To bring that into perspective, this means that for any given day during which 600,000 Jews pray three prayers, 1,800,000 distinct prayers were crafted, although they all consist of the exact same words. Multiply that by 365 days a year times a few thousand years and you have some picture of God’s staggering wisdom.
Although we may find it hard to fathom, the same holds true not only for prayer, but for ever single Mitzvah. We must do our Mitzvos with the knowledge that God has specifically instructed each and every one of us, on a personal basis, to do this Mitzvah. Every individual has been given their own personal Torah, and must fulfill it as such. While it may look similar to that of our neighbor, our personal Mitzvah is like no other.