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Dvar Torah - Naso

Between the parashot of Bamidbar and Nasso, we learn about how the Jews travelled through the desert. We hear of the tribes' order, seniority, and how the Mishkan was moved. However, a puzzling detail is buried in this description. The princes and rulers of the tribes gifted the Levites with six carriages to carry the Mishkan. Four were given to Merari's family to hold the beams and other heavy parts of the sanctuary. Two were assigned to Gershon's family to carry the leather and cloth covers of the Tabernacle. Kehat received no carriage, even though they were tasked with the Ark of the Covenant, the Menorah, the table for the showbread, and the golden and bronze altars. The Torah explains that this discrepancy results from Kehat's family's obligation to carry their charges o their shoulders. But why? Why shouldn't they be able to take advantage of a carriage?

The simplest explanation is that the honour of these hallowed vessels precluded them from being placed on carriages drawn by animals. They had to be carried by people, and the most practical way to do so is on our shoulders.

Chanan Porat pointed out that the Rabbis in the Talmud gave an alternative explanation. The Rabbis state that the Ark carried its bearers. While most assume that this means that the Ark was both light for them, despite its having been made of heavy wood and gold, and lightened their footsteps to make the work easy for them. However, Porat explained that another way to understand the passage links to our parsha. He suggested that Rabbis of the Talmud meant to say that the hearts of Kehat's family were so given to their holy labour that it was easy for them. The Ark and its attendant vessels didn't feel heavy to them because they were so dedicated to their service. Kehat's family didn't need a carriage. Their motivation to complete their task as well as possible and their appreciation for its holiness gave them all the support they needed.

In our lives, we often find ourselves confronting complex and burdensome tasks. However, if we stop to first think of how important they are and how much they enrich our lives and those we love, those tasks might be less challenging. The Levites of Kehat's family teach us that even menial and physically demanding activities can be meaningful if performed with love and appreciation.

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