With the race now on to see who will become the next leader of the Conservative Part and the next Prime Minister, the challenge for every candidate will be how to unite the party and the country and to heal the wounds of the Brexit campaign. The words of Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural (quoted by Rabbi Lord Sacks in his recent Newsnight interview) are particularly pertinent: “With malice toward none; with charity for all; …let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds…”
A powerful symbolic message emerges from the detailed descriptions of the princes in the latter part of this week’s portion.
For twelve days in succession, each prince donated the identical set of offerings to the Tabernacle. Moreover, the Torah, often sparse on unnecessary detail, goes to great lengths to list, on each day, the full breakdown of the contributions of the individual princes.
The message is clear. Each prince, representing his tribe is an individual. He and his tribe are not to be simply subsumed in a biblical etcetera.
Nevertheless, before the individual listings are made, we are told that the princes donated collectively. For the transportation of the Tabernacle, wagons and oxen were needed. Six wagons and twelve oxen were contributed jointly by the princes. Their collaborative role is stressed before mentioning their individual role.
A fascinating Midrash sees this the turning point for our Patriarch, Jacob, in being able to discern harmony restored in the relationships between his sons, especially Joseph. When Joseph, as Viceroy of Egypt, revealed his identity to his brothers, he sent wagons to bring his father and his household down to Egypt. We are told that when Jacob saw the wagons, then his spirit was revived (Bereishit 45:27). The Midrash (Bereishit Raba 94:3) explains that before Joseph had been parted from his father, some twenty years previously, they had been studying the future requirements of a Jewish people. A nation that would be making the return journey to the land of Israel would need to transport its Tabernacle and the wagons would need to be provided by all the tribes, collectively. By sending wagons Joseph was deliberately alluding to this lesson of cooperation between the tribes, reassuring Jacob that whatever discord had brought about the severance of Joseph from the family circle, all the brothers were now pulling together. It is the sight of the wagons and the evocation of this message that revives the spirit of Jacob.
May each of us, in our own lives, be able to achieve not only our individual potential but be able to pull together with others to bring about that greater collective strength for the benefit of us all.