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Unscrolled, Nasso: A Story Worth Retelling

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The three tellings of the Tabernacle’s completion bear little resemblance to one another.

The post Unscrolled, Nasso: A Story Worth Retelling appeared first on Jewish Journal.

This week, as I read through Parashat Nasso, I came to a particular sentence and paused.

“On the day that Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings” (Numbers 7:1).

I furrowed my brow. I had a vague memory that the Tabernacle had already been completed. I flipped back to the book of Leviticus to be certain. There it was in chapters 8 and 9.

In my family, retelling a story is grounds for opprobrium. Indeed, we observe a cruel tradition of shouting “repeat!” at one another when someone is telling a story that we’ve already told.

Curious, I texted a friend and asked her why she thought the Tabernacle’s completion is described twice in two different places.

“Actually, it’s three times,” she said. Apparently, I had forgotten about Exodus chapter 40.

My family has a special word for this. It’s called a “three-peat,” and there’s nothing more shameful.

The three tellings of the Tabernacle’s completion, however, bear little resemblance to one another.  

The three tellings of the Tabernacle’s completion bear little resemblance to one another.

In Exodus, we are told a story of assembly. The tabernacle’s various components have been constructed. One by one, Moses sets them in place. When he is done putting it all together, the cloud of the presence of God settles upon it and fills it.

In Leviticus, we are told a story of sacrifice. Moses ordains Aaron and his sons by means of a number of bloody rituals, complete with descriptions of animal entrails and organs being turned into smoke on the altar. When this is complete, the fire of God descends from the sky and consumes the sacrificial offerings.

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Here, in Numbers, we are told a story of donation. The princes of the tribes of Israel bring forth, each one on a different day, identical offerings of silver, gold, flour, oil, incense, and livestock. At the end of this procession, God speaks from between the golden cherubim that rest atop the ark of the covenant.

In each of these tellings, we are given a different understanding of what completion looks like. In Exodus, completion means being built. In Leviticus, completion means being sanctified. In Numbers, completion means being acknowledged. The physical, the spiritual and the interpersonal.

We also have three different manifestations of God. In Exodus, a cloud. In Leviticus, a fire. In Numbers, a voice. God as presence. God as force. God as a relational being.

Three distinct tellings. Three distinct completions. Three distinct theologies. Considering this, perhaps it’s unfair to call this a repetition.

Some stories become deeper as we repeat them. It’s why we read the Torah year after year after year. It’s why I keep watching Frasier reruns. And it’s why there are some family stories at which we don’t dare shout “repeat!”

Like when my mother recounts how, on what was supposed to be her first date, she hid behind a dumpster out of painful shyness. Or when my father retells how he had a life-changing conversation with a stranger at a rest stop during a cross-country motorcycle trip. Or when my brother recalls how oddly perfect the water in the lake Sunapee was when we jumped in some two decades ago.

These are the stories of our lives. If we are good storytellers, they are never the same from one telling to the next. Different language will be employed. One detail will be emphasized and another forgotten. If they are good stories — the kind worth repeating — we will always find something new in them.

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Matthew Schultz is the author of the essay collection “What Came Before” (2020). He is a rabbinical student at Hebrew College in Newton, Massachusetts.

The post Unscrolled, Nasso: A Story Worth Retelling appeared first on Jewish Journal.

Source: Jewish Journal

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