Mine, yours and ours

Rachel LaVictoire

By Rachel LaVictoire

They say the first step towards change is admitting you have a problem, right? Well, today I’d like to own up to one of my most unattractive qualities, something I’ve dealt with since I was very young: I’m extremely possessive.

In kindergarten, I made Rachel Foody sit outside my blanket-fort for an hour while I played in it. A few years later, Jill Rubinger sat next to me while I single-handedly controlled the lives of our SIMS characters. Even in fifth grade—we had a group in our math class called the “Pretty People” (which actually had nothing at all to do with being pretty) and no one could claim membership without my approval… which I never gave.

And it’s fairly easy to write these off as immaturity or second-child syndrome because obviously no younger sibling under the age of 10 ever wants to share. The truth is, though, my habit to claim things as mine, and only mine, stretched far past a reluctance to pass the Nintendo controller off to my brother. I wanted my things to be mine—to be unique, recognized, and awe-worthy.

Unfortunately, I’ve not yet cleaned myself of this compulsion. Though I’m not proud of this, I will admit to some cunning conversation during my week of sorority rush this past January. Having decided which sorority to call “mine,” I felt it was necessary to help everyone else realize which sororities to call “theirs.” Even when talking to a good friend, I couldn’t help myself.

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“I don’t know what to do,” she told me, “I went to X today and I really liked them but I also liked Y and Z.”

X was mine.

“Ya, I kinda liked X too. I’m really between X and Y,” I offered. Honestly, I’d made up my mind to put X as my first choice and though I never lied to my friend, I certainly rescripted some of the thoughts I was having—focusing on my cons list for X and my pros list for Y, rather than the other way around. In the end, my friend chose Z so I realize that my manipulation meant nothing, but regardless, it wasn’t right.

I don’t know why I’m prone to this behavior. Logically, I know it’s wrong. I know things that are mine can also be someone else’s—that we have to share in order for thoughts to thrive and ideas to flourish. But there’s just something about someone stealing my individuality that really just irks me. It was my idea, my fort, my SIMS characters, and my everything.

This week’s parshah, not surprisingly, teaches otherwise wise. Naso recounts the dedication of the Sanctuary, an event for which all 12 tribes have gathered together. First, as the passage reads, the tribe leaders bring one gift to the Sanctuary. “The chieftains of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ houses, presented [their offerings]. They brought their offering before the Lord: six covered wagons and 12 oxen, a wagon for each two chieftains, and an ox for each one; they presented them in front of the Mishkan” (Numbers 7:3). In addition, though, each leader then brought their own offering for the dedication of the altar. In response, G-d said to Moses, “one chieftain each day, one chieftain each day, shall present his offering for the dedication of the altar” (Numbers 7:11).

And so, for the next 76 verses, parshah Naso walks through each of the 12 leaders’ offerings. The interesting piece, however, is each offering is the same: one silver bowl, one silver sprinkling basin; one spoon of gold filled with incense; one young bull, six rams, six lambs in their first year, six goats, and two oxen. All 12 offerings are exactly the same, down to the weight of each silver item and number of each animal. And yet, G-d insists that they all come separately. Why?

I see G-d’s request as a sign of His appreciation. One gift is no more or less important than the others, regardless of the fact that they are all the same. At the end of the 12 offerings, the Torah reads,

This was the dedication offering of the altar presented by the chieftains on the day it was anointed; there were 12 silver bowls, 12 silver basins and 12 gold spoons. The total of the cattle for the burnt offerings was 12 bulls, 12 rams, and 12 lambs in their first year with their meal offerings. And [there were] 12 young goats for sin offerings. The total of cattle for the peace offerings was 24 oxen, 60 rams, 60 he goats, and 60 lambs in their first year. This was the dedication offering for the altar, after it was anointed.

G-d, however, took the time to appreciate each individual offering. Whether the silver bowl was from Nahshon on the first day or Ahiezar on the tenth, G-d still saw the value of the silver bowl and still appreciated it as a beautiful gift.

So maybe that’s what I need to start realizing—that even if “mine” isn’t just “mine,” it’s still valuable. The idea, the fort, the SIMS characters, and the everything—mine can still be appreciated even if someone else has them, too. One step farther even: maybe it’s the culmination of everyone’s “mine” that provides value. G-d not only finds significance in my two