This week’s parasha starts off the brand new Sefer Bamidbar. Hashem commands Moshe Rabbeinu to take a census, a counting of the Jewish nation. Next He specifies the nesi’im, the leaders for each tribe, and then the Torah delineates the details of the census and the results. All together, the adult men amount to 603,550. If you do the math, that makes the Jewish nation larger than 3,000,000 (million, that is!) people at this point! Wow! Quite a jump from the sixty-nine or seventy people who went down to Egypt! The tribe of Levi is counted separately as they are of a separate status.
Now the Torah goes into the details of the camp in the desert, how the camp is set up, and in what way the nation travels. Yehuda’s camp, with Yissachar and Zevulun, is to the East. Reuven’s camp, with Shimon and Gad, is to the South. Efraim’s camp, with Menashe and Binyomin, is to the West. Dan’s camp, with Asher and Naftali, is to the North.
We learn about the family of Moshe and Aharon, and then the appointment of the Levi’im, the tribe of Levi, as the priests and spiritual leaders and teachers. Their job is to keep Torah alive in the Jewish nation, along with serving in the Temple (or Tabernacle at the time). Since the firstborn sons sinned by the Sin of the Golden Calf, the Levi’im take their place doing this service. The Torah recounts the Levi’im according to their family. We learn about the redemption of the firstborns in exchange for the Levi’im. Did you know that this a mitzvah we still perform to this day?
The Levi’im are organized by family and by job, and we learn about the job of the family of Kehas, the most elite family of Levi. They have the privilege of carrying the parts of the Tabernacle, the Mishkan, when the Jewish people travel. Hashem warns Moshe that the Ark, the Aron, is so holy that nobody, not even the family of Kehas, may look at it unexposed and they should be very careful about this.
With this, our parasha ends and next week we will continue to learn about the jobs of the Levi’im.
As I read through the parasha, I couldn’t help but let unbidden thoughts about modern ideas of equality come into my mind. If this was an ordinary historical book, what I’d read about next is probably a Civil War. “How come the Levi’im are so much more special than the rest of us?” “That’s not fair to let them have extra privileges.” “How come I have to live in this part of the camp?”
That’s not what happened, though, with our ancestors in the desert. As Moshe Rabbeinu commanded from Hashem, so the Jewish people did. Everything they were told, they accepted. The Jewish people were happy to operate all together, as parts of a whole, each needed and important for the greater purpose called the Jewish nation.
“Together Everyone Accomplishes More”, so they say. The Jewish people are a team, a family – you need each member in order to function.
If I asked you which is the most important part of your body, what would you say? Your heart? Your ears? Your eyes? Your feet? Every single part of your body is so vital to your functioning as a human being, that without it, you wouldn’t be complete!
So too with the Jewish people. We are all part of one whole. Unlike the nations around us, we don’t need “equality” as they define it. We believe that we are all equal members in our national service of Hashem, and we each have different roles that all contribute to the whole, the complete glory that the Jewish people bring to Hashem, the beauty that we bring to the world.
Next time you’re tempted to say “that’s not fair!!!” stop and think for a second.
Wouldn’t it be a boring world if we all had the same role to play?
(In part based on a d’var Torah from torah.org)
Have a glorious Shabbos!
Listening to Menucha by Suki & Ding on Zemiros 2 on the Erev Shabbos Mode on jewishmusicstream.com! So happy to listen to music again 🙂