In Parshat Naso the Torah tells of the Nesi’im, the leaders of each tribe, giving gifts to the Mishkan. Each gift was exactly the same, and yet the Torah lists each one, repeating the details twelve times. Why is this? Why not just stop after the first gift and say “and all the others gave the same?”
We’ll answer that by going to the computer. The internet is full of cute videos. Toddler videos, cat videos, baby raccoon videos and all types of things to make you go “awwwwww!” Noa’s favorite cute videos were elderly couple videos. She was inspired by elderly spouses discussing their everlasting love and always cried when they talked about the first time they met.
One evening, Noa came across a video called “A Gift a Day.” In the clip, a white-haired woman spoke of her husband giving her one gift a day during the week leading of her birthday. The video then cuts to Martha’s husband presenting her with a gift. “Oh Izzy! You didn’t have to! (she says this every time) Let me read the card and then open it.” Martha opens the box and a big smile appears on her face. “My favorite chocolates and flowers! You always remember!”
Noa’s eyes were already starting to fill with tears when the next part began. A different box, a different card, but the same gift! “My favorite chocolates and flowers! You always remember!” By now, Noa was bawling. How cute! She loves him so much it doesn’t matter that he gave the same gift! However, when Martha received the same gift for the fifth straight day, Noa’s happiness began to fade. Just then, Noa’s father called to her. “Noa! Time for gymnastics practice! Come on down!” Now Noa couldn’t finish the video, but she wasn’t even sure if she wanted to. Noa hustled downstairs and hopped in the car.
At practice, Noa started to feel a bit bored. She was definitely excited about competing in the upcoming state championship, and she knew her routine needed to be nearly perfect to win. However, repeating the same routine over and over was starting to wear on her. “Coach? Is there a way I can try something a little different tonight? Maybe some hip-hop dancing to get my energy up?” But her coach would have nothing of it. “Noa, we have only two weeks to the competition and we need every bit of practice we can get.” Noa sighed and went back to her routine, but her heart wasn’t in it. She stumbled on her first run-through, fell another time, and couldn’t stick the landing on her last attempt. “Noa, you better get your head on straight,” said her coach. “Go home and get a good night’s sleep. We will try again tomorrow.”
Noa did have a restful night, but it didn’t help. The next day Noa had the same problem, as she did the day after that. Noa was starting to worry, and so was her coach. “Can we try taking tomorrow off?” suggested Noa. Coach agreed and Noa headed home in very low spirits. That night, while sitting on her bed, Noa closed her eyes for some soul searching. “I love gymnastics and I am so proud of everything I have done to get here. Why has it become so dull? I mean, I am doing the same thing every single day. Wait a second...the same thing every single day? The same thing every single day!” Noa shot up, jumped out of bed and ran to her computer. She turned it on and went back to the video of Izzy and Martha.
The video was up to the last thirty seconds, in which Martha was talking about the week of gifts. Why did exactly did she love getting the same gift every day? “It’s not the gift,” said Martha, “it’s the card. Taped to each box gift is a card with a different message than the day before.” Now Noa understood! It’s not always the object or the action or the words, it’s the feeling that comes with it. Just as two people can do the same thing but with completely different meanings, so can one person repeat an action and have a different meaning each time! It’s what’s in the heart that matters!
Inspired by this idea, Noa returned to her gymnastics with a fresh outlook. Before each practice routine, she thought of a different idea, quote, or person to keep her inspired. With this new attitude, Noa’s performances became tighter with fewer and fewer flaws, eventually leading to a state championship.
May Hashem give us the strength to put our hearts into everything we do. May each mitzvah we do feel special, no matter how often we do it.
Yair Daar is an assistant principal and the resident parsha storyteller at Yeshivat He’Atid. He can be reached at [email protected]
By Yair Daar