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    A proper spoonful – Naso

    Every one of the princes of the tribes of Israel brought an offering. The ceremony of dedicating the altar took twelve days, and each tribe had its day.

    The offerings included incense, brought by each prince in a spoon, the same kind of spoon.

    We understand why the incense was needed, and the Torah rightly specifies it. But the spoon? What difference did it make to the Torah what implement was used by the prince? Surely the spoon was merely utilitarian and had no significance in itself.

    The explanation is that not only was the deed – in this case the bringing of the incense – important, but the way it was carried out was also important.

    The codes of Jewish law (e.g. Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, chapter 143) make this point when they speak of how a child should treat his parent.

    If the parent is old and ailing, the child has to make sure he gets adequate food. The food itself is important, because it keeps the parent alive – but the child knows that how the food is brought is also important. The child must not perfunctorily shove it in front of the parent but bring it nicely, with love and dignity and a smile.

    The end does not excuse the means: both the means and the end have to be appropriate.

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