In the Torah portion of Nasso beginning in Chapter 7, the Torah lists the offerings of the heads of the tribes of Israel which were brought at their own initiative on the day of the Tabernacle’s completion. (These are the verses which are read in the synagogue during the days of Chanukah; they were chosen as the Chanukah public Torah reading because that holiday is also about the dedication of the Temple).
Ostensibly, this section of the portion seems very strange indeed. The offerings are repeated in all their detail 12 times, even though they are identical! Each leader brought the exact same offering. Would it not have been enough to list the details once, and then for the Torah to state that each man brought this offering? Why does the Torah repeat and re-write the same thing, 12 times, each man’s offering separately? We know that every single word and letter of the Torah is exact and precise, with nothing extra, and that vast amounts of knowledge can be learned from every single letter!
This is an allusion to the unique holiness and singularity of every single tribe, and each individual. The Midrash describes how even though the offerings were identical, each prince had his own unique kavanot – intentions – and it was the personal thoughts, prayers and intentions of each one that made his offering unique and special. Each tribe had its own tradition about how to serve Hashem and what would transpire until the coming of Moshiach, and how each one should participate to make that happen. So really, this section of the Torah is very holy, and to this very day, each tribe draws its spiritual power from the offering that was brought that day, which was accompanied by such powerful prayer and unique, personalized intention.
This is how we have to serve Hashem! As our sages teach us, performing the physical commandments is not enough! Hashem requires the heart! The intention is the MAIN THING, and even though the act was equal in regards to each of the offerings that were brought, each tribal leader imbued his action with his own intention and heartfelt thoughts. Through this section the Torah emphasizes to us how much Hashem cherishes the intention of our hearts, including our prayers, aspirations, and intentions. So, the Torah ‘repeats’ what seems to be 12 of the same offering, but in reality each one was totally unique! Just as each one of us fulfills the mitzvoth, but each one is totally unique in the way we serve Hashem because no two people have the same thoughts, and Hashem cherishes our good intentions!