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NASO-OILING ONE’S DEEDS

Friday, 29 May, 2015 - 7:23 am

FOR NASO

 

OILING ONE’S DEEDS

 

The sign outside the one-story structure occupies a most prominent place on the edifice. It takes up more space than the façade from which it is hanging. It advertises an oil change for $21.00. With my car needing an oil change, I figured that this price is not too bad.

 

I pulled into the shadowy area behind this structure, as one normally does for an oil change. There, a man came to greet me with a clipboard in his hands. After confirming the purpose of my visit, the guy said, “What kind of oil are you looking for, synthetic or synthetic blend?”

 

When it comes to oils permitted for the kindling of the Menorah on Chanukah, I have done my homework on those. I am ignorant about car oil. Sensing a typical trap to add a few, or many, dollars to the advertised price, I responded: “I don’t know what type of oil I need. I do know that I want that oil change for twenty-one dollars you have advertised. I am here for that.”

 

Having never changed my car’s oil there, he handed me a clipboard. “Please fill out your information on this paper.” The paper had a form which wanted my name, address, phone number, email address, occupation, and some other details that I did not even bother looking upon. “Why do I need to fill out all of this?” I asked. “All I want is for you to change the oil in my car.” “It is not for me,” said the man, “The Company needs this. When you come back the next time, we will have all your information in the system.”

 

The fellow had not answered my question. “But why do you need all my information. For what purpose?”

 

The guy looked up to his right, at a sitting car. Two guys, not seen previously, emerged from the car, as he called out: “He doesn’t want to fill out his information.” The tall, heavy, and heavily tattooed fellow approached me. “Open your hood,” he called out gruffly. He took a peek in, and said: “Synthetic blend.” Then he said, “If you won’t fill out your details, we will not service your car.”

 

My car was moving before he finished his sentence.

 

It should not be too complicated to secure an oil change for the advertised price. It is, after all, what the company claims it wants to do for you. But that is merely the noise they make with their words. Their actions do not match their words. The Sages of the Talmud have some choice words for those who talk too much and produce little, if anything: “Shimon said: ‘Not study, but practice is the essential thing; and whoever engages in excessive talk brings on sin.’” (Avos 1:17.) “Righteous people say little and do much. Wicked ones say a lot, and don’t do even a little bit.” (Bava Metziah 87,a.)

 

An interesting discussion among the Sages occurred in a room in ancient Lod, in the Holy Land, as recorded by the Talmud (Kiddushin 40,b), about the question: “Which is greater, study or deed?” Rabbi Tarfon responded, ‘Action is greater.’ Rabbi Akiva responded, ‘Study is greater.’ All present concluded that study is greater, for studying brings to action.” In other words, while studying Torah carries with it – among many other virtues – the great opportunity of connecting to the Almighty, plus the wisdom and the knowledge it supplies including what actions to perform and how to perform them, the actions the Torah teaches and demands are most important. When studying leads to action, one has collected both advantages: learning and action. When no action is forthcoming, the study is mere words. And mere words carry very little meaning, if anything.

 

The above explains the strange manner which opens this week’s Torah portion, “Naso.” In concluding the previous portion, the Torah assigns the transporting of the “Mishkan,” the traveling sanctuary, in the desert. The Levi family were appointed for this service. Levi had three sons: The oldest, Gershon, then Kehas, then Merari. Although Kehas was the middle child, his clan was mentioned first, explain the Sages of the Midrash, because the Kehosites were the carriers of the Holy Ark, which housed the Torah.

 

It should come, therefore, as no surprise that the Almighty instructs Moses and Aharon to, “Single out those descendants of Kehas from among the (other) children of Levi.” (Bamidbar (Numbers) 4:2.) Because of their connection to the Torah, the assignment of the Kehas family takes precedent over the rest.

 

One would expect the assignment for the older son, Gershon, to immediately follow the assignment of Kehas. That does not happen. The Torah first concludes that portion, waiting with the assigned tasks for the next two sons only in this week’s Torah portion, “Naso.” This break is peculiar; could the Torah not place all three families together? Even more strange is how the name of this week’s portion, “Naso,” actually means “to single out.” And these words were directed towards the Gershon family. The Gershon family does not receive a mere “singling out,” they get the entire portion to be referenced as their own singling out!

 

The answer is about the action and deed. The Kehas family was indeed important, as a result of their carrying the Torah. The Gershon family, on the other hand, was also singled out, for they represented the deeds: they assembled the sanctuary to which all the Jewish people would come to pray to the Almighty and study His Torah. Without the deed, represented by the Gershon family, the Kehas family, famous for their connection with the Torah, would not amount to much.

 

The Gershon family therefore receives not merely a singling out, but the entire second portion of the book is the one in which Gershon is “singled out.” It is the deed which occupies the more important emphasis and attention in Judaism.

 

If study does not lead to action, the studying is just “Big Words,” and nothing more. Like a verbal promise and commitment: When action happens, one then knows that the words were, indeed, “big words.”

 

By the way, I found a coupon which made my oil change even cheaper than the price those mere “word people” had advertised. Now that action is certainly far better than any of their fine words…

 

 

SUMMARY: People who talk without backing up their words with action, are known as “Big Talkers.” Because, without actions, words can be big – but meaningless.  

 

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