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This week, we read in synagogue the portion entitled "Nasso" -- "Raise Up" -- from the book of Numbers, 4:21-7:89. Moses takes a census of the tribe of Levi and the various Levite families are assigned to their work in the portable Tabernacle in the desert. Chapter 7 opens when Moses finishes assembling the Tabernacle and it is ready to come into service; as part of the consecration, the Princes of the Twelve Tribes of Israel each bring inaugural gifts.
On the first day, the Prince of Judah brings his gifts, which are described in detail. (7:12-7:17) The tribe of Issachar follows on day two with his gifts (7:18-7:23) which are word-for-word identical with the gifts brought by the Prince of Judah. And so the reading proceeds through each of the twelve princes, spending some 84 verses describing each Prince's gifts using the identical verses, word-for-word, twelve times.
Anyone who reads scripture knows that it is unusual for a verse to be repeated and unheard of for an identical sequence to repeat twelve times. The Torah could easily have listed the gifts and simply told us that each of the twelve brought identical gifts. Why the monotonous repetition?
The rabbinic commentaries explain in detail. While on the surface, each of the Prince's gifts were identical, they were in fact very different in intention. That is, each Prince individually decided what to give for his own reason. Thus, while each Prince gave a 10-shekel gold spoon filled with incense, one did so in recognition of the Ten Commandments, while another remembered the ten plagues in Egypt. One remembered the ten utterances by which the world was created, another the ten generations from Adam to Noah. The commentary is teaching us that while each action appeared to be the same to an outside observer, they were actually very different from each other, each differentiated by the intention of the actor (the Prince).
For those who uphold the freedom enshrined in the Second Amendment, this insight contains a strong lesson. The enemies of freedom tell us that the person behind the gun doesn't matter -- that guns somehow cause crime and mayhem. They mistake the tool for the actor; they see the firearm and are unable to differentiate between righteous use of firearms in self-defense vs. heinous use of firearms in crime. Thus they seek to outlaw all guns rather than disarming criminals.
But we know the truth: intention matters; people matter. Scripture does not teach "Thou shalt not kill" but rather "Thou shalt not murder;" there is a world of difference between "killing" (which is sometimes permissible and even necessary) and "murder" (which is always forbidden). A firearm in the hands of a righteous defender, whether police officer or civilian, is a tool for goodness in the world. A firearm in the hands of a criminal or madman a tool for evil. Intentions matter.
Let us always remember the responsibilities we have as righteous, law-abiding gun owners. And let us always defend our right said ownership.
Rabbi Bendory is an NRA Certified Firearms Instructor.
The Rabbi's Archive page.
© Copyright Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership 2012.