Parshat Naso 5773: The Significance of Shevet Ephraim’s Inaugural Mishkan Offering on Shabbos

by Moshe Burt

Like last year, our Parsha Naso falls out on the Shabbos after Shavuot, and Shem Mishmuel (translated to English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski) provides commentary about one of the 12 princes — Elishama, prince of Shevet Ephraim — all of whom brought identical gifts at the inauguration of the Mishkan.

Shem Mishmuel cites our Parsha (Bamidbar Perek 7, posuk 48) and comments (Shem Mishmuel, pages 315-318):

“On the seventh day, the prince of the children of Ephraim — Elishama ben Amilud.”

“Ephraim is the strength of my head…” (Tehillim 60:9) — this refers to the prince of Ephraim, who brought his offering… on Shabbos, as the verse says…. We know that it was Shabbos, for we have… demonstrated that the princes started to bring their offerings on Sunday… (Bamidbar Rabbah Perek 14, posuk 1)

He then cites Sifri on Naso 51 and comments:

“This one pushed aside Shabbos and tumah [ritual impurity], although the offering of an individual pushes aside neither.”

This indicates that had any one of the princes come to offer their gift on Shabbos, their donation would have superseded the Shabbos regulations. (The same would have applied to the laws of tumah.)

Shem Mishmuel links the offering of Shevet Ephraim on the seventh day, Shabbos, with Yaakov’s blessing of Ephraim, Yosef’s younger son, before blessing Menasheh, the older son. He cites Sefer Breish’t, Perek 41, posukim 51-52:

“Yosef named the firstborn Menasheh, ‘for G’d has made me forget all of my trouble and all of my father’s house.’ He named the second Efraim, ‘for G’d has made me fruitful in the land of my oppression.'”

He explains that Yosef wanted Menasheh to precede Efraim as Yosef’s philosophy, as described in the verse of Tehillim concerning Menasheh’s name, which indicates:

“Depart from evil” and only then “do good.” (Tehillim 34:15)

Shem Mishmuel explains that Yaakov, however, saw things differently as exemplified by Ephraim’s name (Perek 41, posuk 52) which:

…First concentrates on performing good deeds. Then, due to the influx of holiness generated by one’s new mode of life, any evil traits will automatically dissipate. In Yaakov’s view, this approach to life was preferable to his son’s mode of waiting until the bad has been destroyed before worrying about good deeds. In Yaakov’s opinion (which we may assume is the norm) …the general rule in Jewish life: we must begin our observance of the Torah by seeking mitzvos and learning…. As the holiness of a Torah lifestyle enters our being, any bad will be consumed or expelled.

The problem with Yosef’s approach to life is evident from examining its application to Shabbos. The Shabbos is very holy, and, as such, perhaps we should engage in great spiritual preparations to be ready to accept its holiness. The trouble with this is, who could ever say that he is ready? Surely, still more preparations could be performed. The inevitable result of this is that we would never consider ourselves ready, and hence we would never have Shabbos! Instead, we each do our best during the week, and Shabbos just comes; somehow, we are ready to receive its majesty.

Yaakov’s special selection of Efraim over Menashe meant that the emphasis in Jewish life was forever placed on “doing good”…. The Divine wisdom [imbued to Yaakov] underscored the rationale behind this departure from normative halacha by arranging it that Efraim and no other tribe was scheduled to bring their offering on Shabbos.

…Doing good does not apply only to the members of Efraim — it is, since the blessings administered by Yaakov [first to Efraim, then to Menashe], a universal rule, applicable to every member of klal Yisrael.

That is what is meant by the Sifri, which claims that any one of the tribes could have offered on Shabbos had it been necessary. Once Yaakov had determined the suitable path for all of his descendents, any one of them [any one of the tribes] could have and would have brought their offerings on Shabbos.

One cannot help but wonder whether, if we in the religious world would put aside our sectorial biases toward our fellows in other sectors [“Depart from evil”] and focused on the Good in each of the other respective religious sectors and sat with each other in honest L’Shem Shemayim dialogue, as the Kedusha of living a Torah life would enter our collective beings, that all of the bad, of the divisiveness among the sectors of the frum world would be consumed or expelled.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.