Jewish Soul Journey

ELEVATING THE SOUL – LEVIIM

         

       The eternal Torah, whose every word
or even letter is replete with deep meaning and profound impact in our lives,
transmits to us elaborately (spanning over one hundred passukim in Parshas
Bamidbar, Nasso,  Behaaloscha [and then
further in Parshas Korach] (perek 1 
passukim 47 – 54; perek 3 : 5-51; perek 4: 1-49, perek 8: 5-26 and
18-21-32) the designation, separation, elevation of  the tribe of Leviim. “The Levities according
to their father’s tribe were not counted among them.” – that being the rest of
the Jewish Nation.  “Hashem spoke to
Moses saying, ‘but you should not count the tribe of Levi, and you shall not
take a census of them among the Children of Israel. You shall appoint the
Levities over the Mishkan of Ha’edus, over all its utensils and everything that
belongs to it”      

                       Rashi, our most illustrious
commentator, tells us that the Leviim merited this elevated status because of
their loyalty and courage in the incident of the Golden Calf (1:49). / The entire tribe of Levi
refused to participate in that sin proving their unswerving dedication to The
Creator of the Universe.

              The Ramban further enlightens us –
“The task of the Levities was not so much to protect the Mishkan [and Bais
HaMigdash] as a militia, but rather to serve as an honor guard, as befits the
royal palace” (1:53). / The Jewish people’s task is to be an instrument of
recognition of Hashem and His will in this world. Chazal tell us that a true King
only assumes status as a ruler if there exists a nation that acknowledges and
follows His decrees. / Thus Leviim in all generations are those Jews who
steadfastly keep their focus on proper, enthusiastic service of Hashem through
His Torah.

                  The Leviim’s duty in the Mishkan/Bais
HaMigdash was to assist the Kohanim – among other ways by singing and playing
musical instruments as korbonos were brought. Today the sound of  our voices and music, if expressed sincerely, is
an inner expression of our soul’s yearning to come close to the Creator. Song
also expresses the fact that the total harmony of the universe is under the
absolute control and guidance of Hashem.

             The Divine service of Leviim represents
the part of each of us that links us forever with our spiritual purpose in this
world. Rashi, on the same passuk, tells us: that “from this time on, the Leviim
were to be separated from the rest of the nation and elevated to a new status.”
The Seforno, (also on this passuk) informs us that: “because the Leviim would
be performing their service on behalf of the nation, the rest of the people
would have the obligation to support them, by giving them tithes.”

           An Art Scroll commentary explains it
thus: “Those who serve the people by filling their responsibilities in the
Tabernacle, by teaching the Torah, or by performing any other spiritual tasks
are not to be regarded as supplicants. It is national responsibility to provide
for those who carry out the spiritual obligations of the rest of the people.”

             The Leviim were counted from one
month and upward – with no limit to age indicating that their spiritual mission
is not dependent on age or strength (3:15). The Rambam describes the mission of
the Leviim in Hilchos Shemittah and Yovel 
(13: 12-13) “They
are the legion of Hashem, whose task is to serve Him and to teach His Torah and
way of life to others.” He adds : “Any who follows the example of the Leviim
becomes sanctified as kodesh kodashim, and Hashem will be his portion and heritage
for all eternity. In this world, he will merit what befits him, as the Kohanim
and Levities merited it.” This status of Levy is conferred for life on all
those who totally dedicate their lives to the service of Hashem, independent of
age or strength.

                A wonderful concept derived
from the Leviim’s designation is brought to light by the Midrash (Bamidbar Rabbah
3:7). The infant Leviim  counted from one
month old, surely did not participate in the guarding the Mishkan, so the
Leviim should have been counted from when they began their service. However,
Hashem wished to reward them greatly for their loyal service, so when they
reached thirty years old and began to serve, He retroactively rewarded them  as if they had indeed served from the age of
one month.

           This concept should also apply to our own lives.
Meaning, if we totally dedicate our time, energy and potential from now on to
the service of Hashem, we may merit to have our entire lives credited as Divine
service. How much hope and opportunity this teaching offers us. We can no
longer say it’s too late, or I have already wasted so much of my life. If we
start today with an absolute dedication, we can be credited with lifelong service.

                 Now let us look at a few
classical commentaries on the names and purposes of the three sons of Levi, who
each were given a unique role in the carrying of the Mishkan. In Bamidbar 3:17 it is stated – “These were the
sons of Levi, by their names: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari.” However in 4:4 it
is stated “This is the work of the sons of Kohath in the Ohel Moed: the most
holy.” The commentators explain that Kohath was later listed first before
Gershon because he was designated to carry the most holy parts of the Mishkon,
meaning that he had become elevated because of his assignment.

                  What can we learn and apply
to our own lives from this part of the Torah? Some of the great Cassidisher
masters teach us that Gershon, Kehas and Merari represent three varying but
proper approaches available to us depending on our spiritual level, when we are
confronted by challenging circumstances. There is the level of the tzaddik,
whose service is so unswerving that no temptation lures him away from his
steadfast dedication to the Creator. This is symbolized by the sons of Kehas,
who carried the Aron Hakodesh miraculously on their shoulder – like tzaddkim who
don’t use the desires or objects of this world for their own personal pleasure,
but only for Divine service.

                     The next level of avoda is practiced by
those stay at a distance from the allurements of the yetzer hora, making
‘spiritual fences’, as alluded to in the name Gershon – separating or divorcing
themselves from anything that could blemish their proper service.

                      Then there are those
times when, for all of us,  the righteousness
of  Kohath or the protective attributes
of Gershon are not within our reach. At such times we must use the inner strengths
represented by Merari. Literally the name means “bitter”, and it is at those
times, when life seems bleak, when one feels helpless and besieged, that the
proper avodah is to cry out sincerely to our Creator. Merari was assigned  to carry the heaviest parts of the Mishkan
teaching us that the proper path of service during difficult times, as hinted
to in his name, is to accept the yoke of Heaven with sincere repentance.

              When the Jewish nation was asked: “Mi la-Hashem…?”
the entire Shevet Levi stepped forward. May we all merit to “step forward”
thereby bringing closer the Final Redemption, soon in our days.

 

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia

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