SALT - Wednesday, 2 Sivan 5778 - May 16, 2018

  • Rav David Silverberg
            In the final verses of Parashat Bamidbar, God issues a special instruction to the kohanim to manage the members of the Kehat family of Leviyim when the nation would prepare to travel in the wilderness.  The tribe of Levi was charged with the responsibility of transporting the various parts of the Mishkan during travel, and the members of the Kehat family were assigned the most sacred articles of the Mishkan.  God commanded the kohanim to see to it that when the Kehatites approached the “kodesh ha-kodashim” – the most sacred articles of the Mishkan – each Kehatite was assigned to the article under his charge.  One explanation of this command is that God feared that the Kehatites might all seek or demand the privilege of carrying the aron, the most sacred article of the Mishkan, such that the other articles would be left disgracefully neglected.  To avoid this dishonor to the other articles, the kohanim were instructed to arrange a set, fixed system, whereby each Kehatite was preassigned to a particular article, thereby ensuring that all the articles were properly cared for.
            We might add that on a symbolic level, this command to the kohanim is directed also at all people who approach the “kodesh ha-kodashim” – who admirably set high spiritual ambitions and passionately seek to pursue excellence in their service of God.  As in the case of the Kehatites, there is danger that such people might neglect the less sacred “articles,” the more basic ideals, obligations and responsibilities entailed in Torah life.  Ambition is critically important, but it can sometimes blind us to our elementary requirements, as we set our sights upon lofty achievements and in so doing overlook the Torah’s simpler and more rudimentary requirements.  As we work to become outstanding, we might fail to be good and decent.  And thus we are reminded that as we approach the “kodesh ha-kodashim,” driving ourselves to actualize our full potential rather than feel content with spiritual mediocrity, we must ensure to tend to all the various “sacred articles” included in the “Mishkan,” all the values, principles and requirements that fall under the very large rubric of Torah obligation.  Our desire for spiritual excellence must not lead us to overlook the more basic obligations of integrity, courtesy and decency, which must form the foundation upon which our pursuit of loftier goals can then be built.