This week we return to Shule finally, and it's worth considering what our shule means to us. We come in (usually) week in and week out, saying the same words as everyone else, doing the same things as we did before. Why is the experience so uniform? Should not our spirituality have room in it for more individual expression? The answer lies in this week's Parsha.
This week we will read about how the princes of the tribes brought offerings when the Mishkan, the portable temple our ancestors used in the desert, was inaugurated. We are told in detail about the sacrifices of each of the princes. However, one thing is puzzling. They each brought the same thing. Why list their offerings individually when there isn't any difference from one to the next?
Nachanides, a twelfth-century Spanish rabbi, explains the reason. He tells us that, while the princes all brought the same offerings, it meant something different to each of them. Each of them understood their sacrifices differently. As such, although it looked superficially similar, the offering was itself different and was listed separately.
As we come back to group prayer, to joining with a minyan, and as we go back to the routine of Shule, we can learn much from this statement of Nachmnides. It is true, the words of our prayers don't change very much; the times are the same, and also the appearance. However, the meaning varies a great deal, especially after months of a pandemic, forcing us to stay home. May we all merit meaningful prayers that help the entire world return to good health, and to reach new spiritual highs.